A 15 year study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics shows that partial sleep deprivation relates to weight gain prevention and weight loss promotion. *photo
Recommendations are: "Establish a reasonable bedtime and wakeup time that works for your life. Make sure you get eight hours of sleep each night. Work up to the eaight hours gradually, if necessary. Adjust your activities so that you are in bed in time to get those hours." from Healing Your Hungry Heart: recovering from your eating disorder, chapter 5, "Boundaries: a challenge in early recovery."
Statistics show that more than 35% of American adults are obese and more than 28% are sleep deprived, i.e. sleep less than six hours a night. This study shows there is a connection between these numbers. Studies are showing what many clinicians have suspected for years. Inadequate sleep is part of the eating disorder profile.
I am a clinician focusing on eating disorder recovery. People come to me with the symptoms and problem behaviors that are part of a life lived while maintaining and sustaining an eating disorder. They want help. They want relief. I continually look at what recovery looks like, what it means, and what's required to set recovery in motion.
If a person is willing to go for recovery (rather seek than a quick fix to minimize symptoms) we can work together with lasting recovery as our goal. Looking at sleep habits is part of the work.
Sleep may not seem relevant to eating or starving except, perhaps, to relief that comes with knowing that at least, while you are sleeping, you are not eating. Yet, I have to take that back. Some people get up in the night and eat while they are still asleep.
Recovery, to me, means recovering a healthy, graceful and harmonious balance within your mind, spirit and body so that you are resilient and can deal with life challenges without resorting to eating disorder or any other destructive behaviors designed to numb you to reality. You have to grow and develop into a more complete and whole person without your eating disorder filling in the cracks.
Restoring or establishing for the first time, a balanced energy in your mind, body and spirit requires adequate nourishment on a regular basis. Nourishment includes sleep. Your body and mind need sleep. Your emotions and responses are on a hair trigger when you are sleep deprived.
- Your perceptions are distorted when you are tired.
- You get into arguments with others because you misinterpret their words or behavior.
- You get angry or frightened or both because sleep deprivation doesn't allow you to be resilient and creative in the face of a challenge.
- And, you eat.
- You eat because you misinterpret your fatigue as needing an energy burst that comes with food, especially sugar and carbs that turn quickly into sugar.
- You eat because high emotions coming from your sleep deprived state are too much too bear.
- You want soothing food to calm you down and take your feelings away.
Sleep is not a miracle cure for an eating disorder. But adequate sleep will smooth out your day and allow you to work on your real issues rather than those caused by or magnified by sleep deprivation.
Your Sleep Check
- Do you fall sleep in front of the TV?
- Do you fall asleep while reading in a chair?
- Do you avoid getting into your bed to sleep?
- Do you fall asleep while dressed in your day clothes?
- Do you need the alarm to wake up?
- Do you roll over and go back to sleep in the morning?
- Do you drag yourself unwillingly out of bed in the morning?
- Do you sleep 10, 12, 14 hours now and then?
- Do you need caffeine to get you through the day?
- Do you pride yourself on needing very little sleep?
Please journal about your sleep patterns and attitudes about sleep. You may find that your sleep issues have more impact on your life, your eating disorder and your weight than you realized.
* We never outgrow our need for safe, peaceful, healing, life supporting and serene sleep. Photo by "Officer" at Media Commons.
P.S. From Shakespeare
’ the innocent sleep,
Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleave of care,
The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,
Chief nourisher in life’s feast.
Joanna Poppink, MFT is a private practice psychotherapist. For a free telephone consultation email