It’s Happening Again …

sleepwalking-eatingNo, no, not chewing and spitting (whew!)

After months and months of not waking and eating in the middle of the night, save for the occasional blip on the radar (usually right before my period), the past three weeks I’ve been doing it again fairly regularly, I’m sad to say.

I always wake to use the bathroom … and sometimes I just go back to bed. But other times, I find myself making a beeline for the kitchen in a stupor, a fog.

Often in the past I could tie it to stress, or emotions.

But the irony is, I’m not stressed or feeling particularly emotional — in fact, I feel the calmest I’ve been in ages! Life is good; I feel like I’m in a good place in all aspects of my life: love, family, friends, work, self-image, fitness, health … even financially.

I’m eating enough during the day, I’m eating cleanly (and not restrictively) … I’ve been careful about not over-exercising. So what gives?!

There’s really no excuse, but I’ve noticed once I have one or two nights of doing it, it becomes a habitual thing. And I want so desperately to nip it, once and for all. Yet it seems to keep rearing its ugly head.

When I do it, fortunately it’s not an all-out binge; it’s rarely more than 200 cals. I’m not gaining weight as a result, but I gotta say, it’s driving me positively batty. I just want to sleep … and wake up. Is that too much to ask!?

(In case you’re curious, on nights when it happens, I just count the Points towards the next morning. If I had a T or 2 of peanut butter, like last night, I just don’t have it with my breakfast, when I’d normally eat the T).

At first I thought it was hormonal, now that I’m off my birth control pills to regulate my periods for a couple months. And that could play a role (I’m technically due sometime this week, but who knows, since it’s the first month off the Pill).

The bottom line is, I wake feeling disappointed in myself for having not made it through the night without waking and eating.

Even when it’s just grapes, I don’t care — the point is, I don’t need it. It’s disrupting my sleep, and unnecessary.

Trust me when I tell you, I’ve tried everything I can think of over the years, and nothing works: sleeping pills, locking my door, notes to myself on the fridge and/or cabinets, limiting caffeine, not drinking a lot of water before bed …

I’ve tried coping mechanisms like journaling about it, trying to tell myself not to eat standing up in the moment, to tell myself to go back to bed … but when I’m in this deep a fog, nothing seems to work.

It’s like rationality goes out the door.

And unlike my chewing/spitting where I was always absolutely aware and cognizant of what I was doing, I’m not always fully aware when I’m engaged in midnight eating behaviors.

I realize it midway through. I’ve said before, it’s like I’m on autopilot.

And I can’t even blame it on location! It started at my apartment in DC in 2005, and then continued (always on and off) on vacations, in my house here in MI, and even sometimes when I’d visit my family or my husband’s family in El Salvador. So it’s not about geographic location.

I just seem to go through cycles where “midnight eating” happens … and I don’t like it. Especially because I’m so proud of the progress I’ve made with chewing/spitting, and it isn’t living my best life when I wake up feeling like a flop because I didn’t stay asleep.

I guess the best thing I can do is remind myself I AM in control (even if I’m half-sleeping!) and I DO have the power to just use the bathroom and go to bed, instead of wandering into the living room and kitchen.

I don’t look at these incidents as regressive behavior; I’ve been experiencing them on and off for almost four years now, and while it’s not something I’m proud of, it’s also not a catastrophe, especially since I’m recognizing it.

I will do my best and hope I can kick this habit once and for all. I’m not ashamed of it the way I was of c/s, but it’s still disturbing to me that it happens at all.

Sorry to be a bit of a downer, it’s just a frustrating reality I thought I was done with but clearly, am still dealing with.

26 thoughts on “It’s Happening Again …

  1. I used to do this, it turns out I was actually thirsty. Sometimes your brain gets those signals (hunger and thirst) mixed up and you end up eating when you really need something to drink. Just a thought.

  2. Don’t beat yourself up! You’ve been doing awesome and I understand this is frustrating but certainly something you can just put on your list of things to work on. I wonder if the fact that you have to get up and go to the bathroom means you’re drinking too much too close to going to bed so if you cut that you might not wake at all? Just a thought. I’ve never had a problem with sleeping through. I’m usually exhausted. Heck, I don’t even know that my boy is coming in my room and I’m hoisting him in the bed at 2 or 3 in the morning!

    I just got caught up in the fact that you’re not taking the pill right now. 🙂

  3. I think what is hard for anyone but me to understand is I am not hungry and don’t need food when it happens; I’m not thirsty or hungry … I just wake and am literally on auto-pilot. But I will try to keep water by our bed in case. I actually slept through last night — woke to use the bathroom, but that was it.

    Def. eating enough at dinner, and all day — trust me!! Back on WW and am def. using all my Pts!! (and WPAs).

    LOL Staci … I need a couple months off it to regulate myself before we try for a fam!! And I’ve been limiting water to just at dinnertime (usually 7-8 pm).

  4. I haven’t commented in so long!! 😦

    I’m sorry this is happening. While it sounds like you are AWARE of what’s going on, I don’t know if that necessarily means you are 100% in control of it. I know how scary it must be, I hope you can discern the cause of it, because I have a feeling it’s not random. There is something underlying that has triggered it, so don’t lose hope, try not to be frustrated with yourself!

  5. I remember reading something about a phenomenom called “sleep eating” where like sleep walking people really don’t know they are doing it. Is that how it is for you or is there some awareness while you are doing it?

  6. I’ve missed you, Jenn 😉 Thank you for the support, that means a lot, everyone.

    Lara, it kind of IS like that. Like, I wake and am literally on autopilot and once I’m in the kitchen, I don’t stop. Last night I told myself NONONONO ad went back to bed, but oftentimes I’m in such a fog, such a deep sleep … I conk out like a light, but then wake — which is when this happens. If I tossed and turned and had trouble sleeping, it’d be different. I just can’t STAY asleep. And then I wake, use the bathroom, and find myself in the kitchen.

    I am aware in the sense that I can use the bathroom and wash my hands … in that sense, I’m ok. But otherwise, it’s like being in a sleepwalking daze. It’s terribly frustrating, esp. bc it happens in spurts. I had several good months without it at all (just occasional blips) but now it’s habitual again.

    Last night I didn’t eat, but it drives me nuts that I even woke!!

  7. I started doing this again (in my case snacking post-dinner) once I got OVER the emotional aspect of it. Almost like I wanted to say to myself “see, you can do this, and it doesn’t freak you out!” Almost like RECLAIMING the right to eat whenever you want to, without stress. If I focus on a really compelling reason not to snack after dinner – like being hungry for a breakfast that I’m really looking forward to – it helps a lot. You’re doing great, and as you said yourself, these aren’t nearly as bad as they used to be/could be!

  8. It is interesting that food is what you go for when you wake in the night. Not to get all psycho-babbly but it could be something in the brain that is feeling deprived even though you are not feeling deprived or that you are restricting? Did your therapist have any inisght into it?

  9. Has it gotten more frequent since you decided to start counting points again? I find sometimes the very decision to watch what I eat is enough to bring back behaviours I thought I had gotten over when I wasn`t trying to get a grip on overeating. Could it be a way to rebel against the point counting?

    I sort of compare this to my own bingeing. Sometimes, I will count points all day up to dinner then just stop tracking because I don`t want to be controlled by the points. I just want to be free so I eat and I`m shutting my brain off totally.

    When you wake up, do you start worrying about things? Do you think about what you need to do tomorrow or are stressful or anxious thoughts going through your head? Just wondering if perhaps this is an attempt to shut your brain off? Have you tried meditating or deep breathing? I wake up in the night a lot. I think sleep matters soo much in recovery and I think it plays a huge part in my health. When Im tired I eat. That`s just how I am. So if I get proper sleep I have a much better day. Getting back to sleep after waking up is hard for me because I stress. I have found that working on my anxiety producing thoughts at all times of the day has been a huge help.

  10. Hi FitforFree. I see what you mean, but since I am not really aware when it’s happening, it’s hard to reclaim anything. I have def. used that when I’ve wanted a snack I didn’t need during the day or something, but when I’m sleep-eating, it’s like all reason goes out the proverbial door. So hard to explain … it’s not like I’m up late snacking and then go to bed. This is interrupted sleep.

    Lara, I def. don’t feel deprived about anything in life right now; in fact, I’ve never felt more balance/at ease, which is what’s weird. My therapist was no help; I don’t see her anymore, but she wanted me to embrace it instead of knocking it; to just accept it as just that, a midnight snack, no harm. But there IS harm to me when I just want to sleep without waking and finding myself in the kitchen. Note I say “find myself” vs “go to the kitchen …” b/c I feel victimized when it happens. It’s not a conscious decision 99% of the time. She did note it COULD be hormonal, but who knows.

    I promise 100% I am not restricting at all; in fact, I’ve never felt more balanced in terms of eating and exercise as I do now. It’s just frustrating. It’s like I think b/c my mind is so fixated on food, it’s the first thing that pops into my head, even if I’m not aware of it.

    Hi Susie, it did start up again when I started counting again, but I have never stopped journaling/tracking so really, I don’t think it’s related. And I am not going to bed hungry or anything; I’m content and eating about 1600 cals a day–DEF plenty, even with all the exercise I do. If I were waking HUNGRY, I’d say I’m deprived. But I’m not. And I feel personally fulfilled in every aspect of my life so … it remains a mystery.

    Nope, I am not thinking of anything when I wake, honestly. Even last night, I had no conscious thoughts. No anxiety. Nada. I could try deep breathing but that would mean being able to stop something before it starts–which is a lot easier to do when I am conscious, awake, like at work or home.

    Sorry if I sound defensive here to anyone; this has been plaguing me for years on and off and no one seems to have a solution for me (docs/therapist).

    I don’t want to have to fear sleep!

  11. ok, when I’m in full diet-mode and VERY gung-ho about exercise and my regimen, I often dream about food, counting points, exercising.

    I think waking and eating may be another manifestation of an obsession with food? like you’re thinking about it all the time, even while you’re [practically] asleep.

    It may be anxiety related. not to say you’re anxious right now about something in particular, just anxious generally.

    I’m the first to admit I have orthorexia, but I know my thoughts feel most free when I start RELAXING about food (not to say throw in the towel, but rather eat with my head, stop when full, remember to breathe and drink lots of agua). try to instill in yourself that breathing, relaxing is a better alternative to food? not that I’ve mastered this, but worth a shot. I think both of our anxious tendencies lead us to be obsessed with food and exercise.

  12. I can’t recall a single dream about it, though, Cathy…and I have felt calmer about food lately, too…and exercise. So it’s weird this is striking now. 😦

    I agree I’m generally an anxious person (therapy confirmed it) but I don’t FEEL anxious whereas in the past, I have.

    I’m trying really hard to be less obsessive and I really feel like I’m making progress … just wish it could continue to my sleeping hours as well!

  13. I guess what I mean is, I don’t feel fixated on it lately. I’ve enjoyed being back in my comfort zone of just counting Points.

  14. I wish I had some words of wisdom for you. I totally get what you are saying abut how this is different than mindless snacking or a binge where you feel kind of numb to it. You truly are “zoned out” and not choosing to zone out if that makes sense.

    I do wonder if there is some hormonal component since you went off BCP and hormones can be flukey for a while. I went off BCP in January and did not have TOM until late March and then another in May. I had hormone levels tested and they are still not yet normal so it could be your body adjusting to that. Hang in there! Maybe like your therapist said just accept it as something that happens? Have you tried stopping drinking water at a certain point so you don’t have to pee or does that not work?

  15. Thnaks, Lara…I wish so too!! I have def. mindlessly munched before while awake … but this isn’t the same. Other people who have experienced this have said similar things; it’s like you’re not in the zone at all. I could stop a binge if I wanted to; it’s VERY hard to stop this once it stops sometimes; other times, I can walk away.

    I am curious about the hormonal stuff, too … I’ve been on it for like 8 yrs now, so who knows. I can’t tell which came first, the chicken or the egg, b/c it was (coincidentally) the same week I went back to Points vs Sparkpeople. Back to basics. And I feel less obsessed now back on Points.

    Yup, I stop drinking around 8. I go to bed around 11:30 most nights now that I’m mostly doing p.m. workouts.

  16. Thank you Cathy, that was what I was trying to say but not as well as you. Melissa, have you ever read the book called: it`s not about food? I think there might be something useful in there for this. Just a thought. I bet it`s frustrating. I find myself frustrated often with my own behaviour. Sometimes we have analyzed it so much and know so much about ourselves that it just gets complicated. Sometimes I just think I know TOO MUCH. There are people out there that don`t give a second thought to this stuff. I wish I was more like them. ahah

  17. adding more:

    the reason I`m so convinced it has to do with the counting is that that is how I work and the book: It`s not about food, says the same thing. THe very act of deciding: OK’ I need to be serious about counting points and following such plan is like saying: i`m not good enough right now. I need to change. then you start being critical on your body and questioning your choices. I find that the very decision to make a change and “eat better” is one that can easilly lead me to binge, just because I”m no longer really listening to and honouring my hunger, I’m following points, I’m questioning myself, I’m on a plan that is not necesarily related to my own intuition. That in itself causes choices that seem to be completely opposite of what I want.

  18. Hi Susie I haven’t read that book but it soudns good. What’s plaguing me most is I honestly with all my heart have never felt calmer or more sane/undisordered (is that a word?!) I believe it’s not about the food; I’m just in this fog and turn to food, probably b/c I still think about it a lot, even when I don’t realize it — I agree, that could be part of it. I tend to overthink EVERYTHING. My husband, family, friends will tell you that 😉 I’m the queen of over-analyzing. Maybe there just isn’t a reason. Or maybe thinking about it so much incites the reason?! UGH.

  19. I, Too, suffer from night eating….I counted calories for a very long time and still do…a hard habit to break. I am also an anxious person and has found deep breathing to be extremely helpful during the day. I have also been on birth control (Ortho Tricyclen Lo) which has made my hormones go haywire. I have mood swings for2 weeks before my period! It sucks. So this is my first month off the pill. I’m thinking the restricting method of counting points/cals (hence not truly listening to our bodies’ hunger cues–we disconnect our bellies from our minds) and secondly, wild hormones def play a role in our sleep eating. However, I find that when I limit my liquid intake to a 16oz water bottle at dinner, I don’t wake up to use the bathroom at night, and therefore, don’t find myself in the kitchen. I also locked the fridge for a couple months and my b/f hid the key and unlocked it in the AM. This led to major overeating, sometimes bingeing, in the morning, once the fridge was unlocked. So locking the fridge has been discontinued. When I eat 3 large balanced meals and limit my fluid intake at night, I’ve found that I don’t wake up during the night….. We can get through this!

  20. Susie I’d agree with that assessment except for over four years now, I’ve been on WW so this isn’t new to me, so even though I made a recommitment to go back to WW, I never stopped counting/journaling … so I don’t know how much weight that assessment holds for me, personally. But I do appreciate the insight!

    Hi Julie, so glad to hear I’m not alone. I will try to limit my liquids tonight to see what happens.

  21. I have done this nearly every night for the last 2…or 3(?) years and on and off before then. Two All-Bran bars plus a very small piece of chocolate is what I’ve had every night for the last year or so. My total (and my rule) is no more than 300 calories. I used to be so bothered by it, and still am a little, but my issue, maybe, psychologically, is that I just DO NOT leave any time for myself in the morning to sit and read a mag and enjoy my breakfast. But in the night I wake up, sit and eat, read a magazine and go back to bed after about 10-15 minutes. Then in the morning I just eat a piece of fruit and go to work. I wonder if it will be different when I stay at home with a child – if I’ll get up less in the night because I know I won’t be crunched for time in the morning. Anyway, you’re not alone, girl!!!

  22. That’s so interesting, LG! The thing is, I’m not enjoying anything when I do this … it sounds like you almost look forward to it, as a pleasant habit or one you’ve become fond of … but it’s good to know I’m not a freak and I’m not alone!

  23. Have you tried having a small snack – a few grapes or some other fruit – just before bed? If you eat at 8 and don’t go to sleep until 11:30 then it is getting into that 3-4 hour time period after a meal when I start to get hungry again…

    Good luck with it, whatever the problem is!!


  24. Your blog made me cry, I can’t believe there’s someone out there going through the exact same thing I am. I have struggled with weight and eating problems for many years but C/S sort of took over my life a year ago.

    As for eating at night… at one point I was waking up at 4 am hungry all the time and facing the same frustration of eating unnecessarily. What I do now is I’ve tried to limit my Coke Zero and tea drinking, and I exercise very late at night, which makes me so exhausted I hit the pillow. I also add on the previous night’s calories to the next day’s. to try and minimize damage.

  25. Hi Yas — I promise you, i’m not at all hungry or even peckish when I go to bed; if I was hungry, I’d have no problem eating something before bed. The thing is, it seems this is how I “cope” when I wake — with food!! It’s insane!!

    Aw Cammie … there are so many of us out there, it’s incredible … and sad and inspirational at the same time.

    I had iced tea tonight out to dinner vs diet coke (what I usually order) so hoping the lack of caffeine will play a role in keeping me zzzzzzz!!

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