Miles to go before I sleep...
February 16, 2010 9:07 PM   Subscribe

Insomnia after "quitting" the binge.

I've been struggling with binge eating for a while, and I am (VERY) slowly overcoming my food issues. Of course, there are still days when I lapse, but they are becoming more infrequent and in less volume.

On the nights that I don't binge, however, I become a complete insomniac. Sometimes I'm freezing cold, sometimes I sweat through my sheets but for the most part all I can do is think about food and my stabbing hunger pains. There have been nights where I may fall asleep for an hour or two, if I'm lucky. I've tried eating a little something (usually an orange or yogurt) before bed, and this helps to a degree, but the insomnia is just less intense, not completely gone.

Has anyone experienced this? Is this some sort of withdrawal?
posted by anonymous to Food & Drink (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I have not dealt with this kind of insomnia with binge eating specifically, but with other behaviors or problems. For me, the insomnia is linked with anxiety that results from some level of obsessive or intrusive thinking about the very thing I am trying to avoid. For me, sometimes I can substitute by doing something else - making some change. Getting up and having a cup of valerian tea while watching some kind of streamed documentary, opening the window until I freeze myself to sleep, taking a shower, answering AskMe questions. The total change of scene helps me unfixate my brain from its obsession of choice, and when that happens the anxiety that is overriding my tiredness can disappear. This is a totally non-scientific description of course, but when this happens to me, I view it as my body having anxiety which my mind interprets as intrusive thoughts about whatever subject. For me, the subject itself isn't causing the anxiety, but instead it is the interpretation I am putting on the anxiety. The change of scene or other relaxing measures can alleviate the underlying anxiety.

Without trying to be a pusher, have you tried talking to a doctor about having a sleep or anxiety medication available to you for use on the nights you have severe insomnia? If you think that might be helpful for you, I would warn you against Ambien which has been reported to have "sleep eating" issues for some people, and for me, does make me tend to snack uncontrollably in the first 20 minutes after I take it. But there are a variety of options you could discuss with a doctor if you chose to, though I respect that not everyone wants to go that route.

These are just my individual experiences of course, so take them for whatever they are worth, if anything. Insomnia is so frustrating, I'm so sympathetic and I hope you are able to resolve it.
posted by bunnycup at 9:20 PM on February 16, 2010

If you binge on carbohydrates, it may be worth noting that both oranges and flavored yogurt are in about the same place on the glycemic index -- low, compared to most carbohydrate-heavy junk foods. You might want to talk to a physician or nutritionist about selecting another set of possible evening snacks.
posted by gnomeloaf at 9:32 PM on February 16, 2010

Low blood sugar can lead to panic attacks. I know I have panic attacks at night because of this. You may want to talk to your doctor.
posted by fifilaru at 9:36 PM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

I was just thinking low blood sugar, also. Perhaps you should get yours checked by your doctor.
posted by IndigoRain at 9:41 PM on February 16, 2010


Sounds to me like it would be a good idea to have your blood sugar tested, as suggested above. Otherwise, consider this: binge eating (like binge anything) is a reaction to fear and anxiety. If you take away the bingeing, you're left with the fear. How you deal with it is up to you, but addressing it is probably the key to really beating your insomnia. Good luck.
posted by Paris Elk at 11:24 PM on February 16, 2010

I used to wake up between 3 and 5 am and binge before I could fall back asleep. I also have suffered incredible insomnia for all of my adult life.

I would really talk to your GP or, better yet, a psychiatrist to see about ways to help you get your rest and to eliminate any other physical issues like the low blood sugar others have mentioned. I currently take trazodone with dinner to help me sleep -- it's an antidepressant that is often prescribed as a sleep aid. I also take an SSRI antidepressant to help manage my otherwise crippling anxiety.

Another question is -- when you wake up and cannot fall back asleep, do you just stay in bed unless you're binging? Is there something else you can do until you feel more ready to go to sleep? I used to play word games online like Pathwords until I found myself too tired to finish a round.
posted by tastybrains at 5:17 AM on February 17, 2010

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