Why we need to be having the conversation about lack of sleep and eating disorder recovery.
At some point in our life we have all experienced sleepless nights. We know what it’s like the next day. The inability to function as normal or the regret of not going to bed earlier aren’t good feelings. The odd night’s sleep deprivation doesn’t really hurt. But if it goes on indefinitely, your quality of life deteriorates as it becomes harder to live well.
Lack Of Sleep And Eating Disorders
For people with eating disorders, sleep deprivation and insomnia tend to be common issues. Often viewed as ‘not really a big deal’, they remain pretty much unspoken. This remains the case in a lot of treatment/therapy, especially at the beginning of the recovery process. It’s something we do discuss a lot in clinic as it affects your mood (making you feel worse each day) and increases your vulnerability which can result in it being more likely you will engage your eating disorder behaviours.
The anxiety which anorexia sufferers experience can keep them up all night and will quickly spiral due to the physical and mental stress caused through not getting enough rest.
A lack of rest/sleep for bulimia and other disorders which involve bingeing can result in a reduction in the ability to control eating impulses even further. The focus is on food rather than sleep.
For Orthorexia sufferers, a lack of sleep strengthens the belief that healthy foods will make up for the lack of rest the body is getting.
Food is medicine and restoring full nutrition and a healthy body weight in the safest way possible is necessary for recovery. This process is not just for weight gain/weight maintenance but also to repair the mind. Brain function is changed by even the smallest of deficiencies in the diet or amount of sleep.
As stated earlier, deprivation is a serious problem. But this can be resolved if it’s looked at holistically during the recovery journey. Sleep, or rather, the lack of, is a behaviour which can be changed.
Things To Do Before You Go To Bed:
- Ensure your bedroom is tidy and ready for you to go to bed in. It should provide a calm and peaceful environment for you.
- Close the curtains/pull down the blinds so the room is darkened and ensure the temperature is comfortable for you to sleep in.
- Have a set bedtime and get up time and be consistent with this (including weekends). Your body clock will eventually get to know the routine.
- Turn off your laptop/ipad and television (and put down your phone) at least one hour before going to bed.
- Have a bedtime ritual – take a hot shower/bath, have a hot drink (not coffee though), write in your journal, listen to music, read a book.
- Listen to an audio recording of sleep meditation/music – there are plenty of apps and hours of YouTube recordings which you can press play and leave until the morning.
It is not a good thing to stay in bed if you cannot get to sleep as your mind will be racing. This is when we can start to listen to and believe our negative thoughts. We think back to things that have happened in the past or start to blow up something small into something much bigger than it really is.
Get up and read a book for 10 minutes and then go back to bed. If you still cannot fall asleep, repeat until you are feeling tired. The important thing is to distract your mind of negativity and feelings of anxiousness. Instead focus on something you enjoy doing that relaxes you too.
Establishing a good eating and sleep pattern generates more energy which aids recovery. Both your body and your mind will benefit from the restored nutrients. You’ve heard the saying “brain food,” well that’s the nutrients and energy which we need to fuel the brain. By getting a good night’s sleep, your brain will be happy. You will have the power to focus more clearly on those positive thoughts and actions you need to take for your journey.