Saturday, January 4, 2014

Eating Disorders: A Tip for When You or Your Anorexic Daughter Can't Sleep

It is common for girls to have difficulty sleeping, going to sleep or staying asleep. This may be related to the anxiety and depression that go along with eating disorders. The eating disorder thoughts may be rampant in their minds after a day of trying to eat more or trying not to purge.

Evenings are increasingly difficult for girls to eat because they often believe they have already eaten enough or too much that day. They are more likely to restrict at dinner time or not have the evening snack they need. They may also be more tempted to purge after the evening meal. Many will also spend this time before bed or late at night exercising to get rid of calories they ingested.

Imagine trying to go to sleep with all these things on your mind. It makes sense because they finally have to be quiet with themselves to go to sleep and cannot as easily distract from ED thoughts. A lot of anxiety comes to the surface at bedtime.

I have problems myself going to sleep and I don't have the kind of anxiety these girls have. Bedtime is vulnerable for a lot of people and it is often because our defenses our down. We aren't busy with other things and our minds are not otherwise occupied. We may use this time to evaluate the day and any mistakes we made we haven't yet dealt with.

One thing that helps me a lot and that I use often is called just being very present with yourself in the moment. When you are lying in bed and your thoughts are racing, start by focusing on what you can hear. For example; "I hear my husband breathing next to me. I hear the clock ticking in the dining room. I hear the cats chasing each other."

Next focus on what you feel physically. By that I mean, "I feel my left hand lying against the sheet. I feel the pillow that is between my knees. My left foot is lying heavily against the sheet."

You can also focus on how your body feels in the moment. "There is a dull ache in my lower back. I can feel some head ache pain above my right eye. My knee feels better tonight. My stomach is not upset and that feels good."

You can increase your awareness just by noticing the room temperature. My hands and feet are cold at night so that is a common awareness for me. You may notice, "The room is cold, the room is hot. I feel the warmth of the electric blanket starting to increase."

This may sound silly to you I don't know; but it works! If you keep focusing in on your own body, your surroundings and your 5 senses you will eventually go to sleep. When your mind wanders to something you are worried about, bring it back to your 5 senses.

You are training your mind on what to do when you are in bed. It is time to sleep, not worry. It is time to sleep not worry about what you ate today. It is time to sleep not solve tomorrow's problems. You have to train your mind to obey you. Keep redirecting it back to your body and what is around you.

If you consistently bring your mind back to your 5 senses you will go to sleep. Sometimes I have to do this for 5 minutes; other times I might have to focus for 30 minutes. Eventually though it will work if you keep doing it. Do this every night and it will get easier to go sleep when you get in bed.

Teach your daughter this skill and it will help her. It will help you too. After all; you have no worries right?

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