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This question comes from a reader in North Carolina.

Question:

Please help me, every night I binge. It’s not that I want to, I just can’t sleep unless I do. I sit there in bed, tossing and turning, and I can resist for hours, but I still won’t sleep. I can usually make it till midnight, then I have to get out of bed and eat whatever I can.  Even if there’s nothing good in the house like chips or ice cream,  I’ll eat cans of beans and bread and frozen dinners until I’m full. I’ll binge on foods that aren’t even tasty or good. I just want to eat. I really need help! I can’t live like this anymore.- Deborah in NC

Answer:

Hi Deborah,

I’m so sorry that you’re going through this. It sounds very, very difficult. However, it’s not uncommon. I have a few thoughts.

1.)Are you eating enough during the day? Often people try to restrict during the day time and by the time the evening falls, they are ravenous. Make sure that you are getting at least 3 substantial meals every day.

2.)It also sounds like you are dealing with anxiety. You are tossing and turning and not able to sleep, and the thing that soothes your anxiety is a binge.

If you are in fact getting enough to eat during the day, the next thing to do is begin to look at your sleeping pattern and your anxiety.

Other things to consider:

1.) Are you heading to sleep too early? Is it possible that your natural bedtime is closer to 11 or 12 and you’re putting yourself to bed early and trying to force yourself to sleep at a time that causes anxiety about sleep? Perhaps you might try to relax and watch a tv show that you like or sit in bed and read a book for an hour or two before you shut the lights out. This might help you to fall into some natural fatigue rather than forcing it.

2.)Are you giving yourself a buffer between your day and sleep?  You need space to unwind between your day and going to sleep. Sometimes people can lay in bed and ruminate about what they have to do, what they did and what went wrong.  Give your brain time to settle down and decompress from the day.

3.)Remember that sleep is a natural biological function and you don’t need a binge to sleep, but your anxiety about bingeing and whether or not you will is keeping you up.

4.)Allow yourself a snack before you go to bed. Preferably something warm, like hot tea with maybe some cheese or something high in protein. Definitely give yourself some food so that you know that you’ve eaten without having to get up and go for a binge.

5.)You might want to talk to your doctor or therapist about insomnia/anxiety and begin to work on that.

6.)Look at your caffeine intake. Often, cutting back to just 1-2 caffeinated drinks a day, and none after noon can help with sleep and anxiety. That includes soda, black tea, coffee and even chocolate.

7.)It’s important for you to do your own research or talk to your doctor about this, but often Calms Forte can be a helpful and innocuous remedy to help sleep come a bit easier.

8.)Put a sign on the pantry/refrigerator with reminders that you don’t need to binge to sleep, that you can fall asleep naturally without bingeing. That way, when you come to your kitchen at night, it might jar your consciousness a bit and help you to make a more informed decision about your intent.

I hope that this was helpful. Good Luck.

Warmly,

Leora

If anyone else has any advice, please do post in the comments section.

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3 comments on “Friday Q & A– I can’t sleep unless I binge

  1. Alex

    I do have this same problem. I actually use to weigh 280 pounds with a size 48 waist. Then I started taking MMA (mixed martial arts) and got my diet and weight lifting down to a science with one of my great friends who is also a nutritionist. I dieted and worked out perfectly for about 2 years. I ended up getting down to 178 pounds and had a 32 size waist, abs and all. I loved it and i was so happy. Then I tried to take a break from the dieting part but still continued to excercise. I didn’t even diet that poorly and about 3 months or so later I weighed 212 pounds! So i hit the dieting again hard and got back down to where im at now, about 180 pounds and 32 waist again. But now, its way harder for me to stick to my diet at night. I eat literally only turkey and vegitables all day every 3 hours and keep my calories under controle, low carbs, and very high protien. I feel great all day and not lacking any energy even though my workouts take about 4 hours out of my day and they are high intense (lifting plus still taking MMA) But I CANT SLEEP UNLESS I EAT SOMETHING. not just anything, it has to be sweet and compleatly bad for me. Also anytime through the night I am up and eating or I will literally just lay there and toss and turn. I wake up in the morning feeling like crap. This is EVERY night and easily at least 1000 calories worth of junk throughout the night. I still do have calorie diffrence though. But working out 4 or 5 hours a day for such small losses of weight is killing me and I know its because of my night eating. It is definitly holding me back and I could really use some help on my problem. PLEASE!

  2. Ann

    I have struggled with this problem for several years and have gained about 30 pounds. I take a SSRI every night and still have to eat during the night. I sometimes go to sleep and wake up after maybe 30 min. to an hour hungry and can’t go back to sleep until I eat something. I try to eat a few saltine crackers and small glass of milk or have a bowl of cereal, but still the extra calories late at night add up. I suffer from anxiety and always have. That’s just a part of my life I try to deal with daily. I have tried keeping sugar free gum at bedside to chew for a few minutes when I wake up hungry. That works sometimes and also sucking on a piece of sugar free candy has helped. It’s a frustrating problem that I wish I could overcome.

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