Midnight Cowboy Snacker
September 21, 2012 6:54 AM   Subscribe

Why and I eating in the middle of the night and how do I stop?

I have always had trouble sleeping and rarely sleep more than 5 or 6 hours a night. I am trying to have better sleep hygiene (i.e. no caffeine before bed, no computer within an hour of sleeping, reading before bed, using iPhone sleep cycle app). I still wake up at least 1 or 2 times during the night.

Sometimes, I have an uncontrollable desire to get up and get a snack in the middle of the night. I lay in bed and sweat and toss and turn and a lot of times, the food will quickly put me back to sleep. I eat enough during the day and this habit often makes me feel gross in the morning. I really want to break this habit but I am not sure why this is happening or how to stop. Any insight?
posted by anonymous to Food & Drink (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
A lot of people confuse thirst with hunger feelings. You likely wake up thirsty, but eat instead. When you wake up, you may be more dehydrated. Try drinking a small glass of water before going to bed and keep a water bottle beside your bed so you don't have to get out of bed to drink during the night. Try not to drink too much at once as you will increase the chance or acid reflux.
posted by Yorrick at 7:07 AM on September 21, 2012 [5 favorites]

I've had good luck filling a coffee cup with chicken/some sort of broth and drinking it when I am feeling this way. Chamomile tea with heavy cream is nice, too. I need to make the cup and then take it to bed and drink it, otherwise I will still feel panic-hungry and devour the fridge if I stand in the cold/dark kitchen and drink it. Sitting in the cozy bed with the tea+cream or broth and a cookbook or novel is enough to fill my stomach with warm goodness and knock me out. If you are like me, what you are doing is a form of panic, and you are trying to fill that middle of the night panic-empytness by filling your tummy. Good luck!
posted by Acer_saccharum at 7:34 AM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Are you eating carb-heavy dinners?
posted by DarlingBri at 7:51 AM on September 21, 2012

The sweating brings to mind a blood sugar drop. Normally, your liver releases glucose in the middle of the night to prevent this. If that's not happening, you could be waking up with low blood sugar, and eating is a normal response to this.

Do you have a little snack before bed? A small portion of cheese and a few crackers? A yogurt?

If I absolutely have to eat at night, it's a bowl of cereal (more the multigrain with nuts and berries kind than say, puffed rice or sweet stuff) and some low fat milk.

Also what's your diet like during the day? If you have low blood sugar tendencies (or high blood sugar), try going for a more balanced diet consistently throughout the day, because say, fasting and then eating a huge dinner might cause your blood sugar to spike and then drop rapidly, causing you to wake up with a low blood sugar attack (which means you probably want to get it checked out with a doctor).
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 7:52 AM on September 21, 2012

Some people eat from anxiety, and I have had periods like what you describe. Controlling my carbs so I don't crash was one thing that helped. In my case, getting off the pill basically stopped it - it was making me crazy in a lot of ways, one of which was intense food anxiety.

Definitely try drinking some water instead. Or, as my doctor advised once during an especially weird insomniac period, have some sugar-free or watered-down sports drink, because what you may be needing is a little potassium/electrolytes hit.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:53 AM on September 21, 2012

Try brushing your teeth instead. (Or, honestly, it sounds like it might be less work to include your midnight snack--and brushing your teeth after--into your schedule/diet. Some people just do better with smaller, more frequent meals. Better to build your habits around what your body already likes to do then to force something specific because that's what someone else does.)
posted by anaelith at 7:57 AM on September 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

I eat enough during the day and this habit often makes me feel gross in the morning.

Gross physically? Like, upset stomach in the morning if you eat during the night? Or just gross because you feel ashamed of it? If the latter, I'm with anaelith: just plan on a midnight snack, keep reasonably healthy foods around to eat as part of it, and quit beating yourself up over it. There's nothing gross or shameful about adapting to the way your body happens to work.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:10 PM on September 21, 2012

Not really what you asked, but you mention 'no caffeine before bed'. I have been told by people that know these things that caffeine has a very long 'half life' in your system and sticks around for a very long time. I have heard from both therapists and doctors that if you're having sleeping problems and go to bed at "normal" times (who knows, maybe 10 or 11pm?) then you should have absolutely no caffeine after 2pm.

I mention this because you saying 'no caffeine before bed' implies to me you are probably having it later than you should.

Food? I dunno.
posted by BurnMage at 2:07 PM on September 21, 2012

Do you happen to be on some sort of restricted carbohydrate diet? I've found that I cannot sleep unless I've had some sort of starchy goodness in at least one meal or snack during the day.
posted by french films about trains at 5:44 PM on September 21, 2012

That's how I sleep too - waking up several times a night. Sometimes I can fall back asleep pretty easily, but a lot of times, after about 5 to 6 hours, I can't. I don't know if it's the digesting process, or just not having whatever chemical my body produces when I haven't eaten in a while, but eating definitely helps me fall back asleep. So I agree with nebulawindphone and anaelith - you're probably better off accepting that eating is what you need to do to get better sleep. Eating's better than taking drugs, and seems to work a lot faster. You may not need to eat much at all. Just a few spoonfuls of light ice cream or yogurt works fine for me; I think it's the combination of not needing chewing, and whatever effect dairy products have on me.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 7:19 AM on September 22, 2012

I've had this problem.

Don't eat a large meal too close to bed. Also, if you eat dinner early, it might help to have a mini meal closer to bed time.

Also, try to eat your meals at the same time everyday spread out in even intervals so you are always eating before you get ravenous. You really should eat before you get hungry. Then your blood sugar doesn't drop so low causing dips and highs that cause your hunger to go out of wack.

II I do end up waking up in the middle of the night, I make myself a whey protein shake with a tablespoon of honey and table spoon of coconut oil. It's like a min i meal I can just drink instead of having ot sit and eat screwing up my sleep schedule. It's 30, 30, 30 protein, fat and carbs so it keeps me fuller longer.
posted by eq21 at 7:48 PM on September 23, 2012

« Older Cheap Flights to Ireland   |   Should I take my old job back? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.