Insomnia and Eating Habits
Last updated: April 2023
Sustenance. Nourishment. Comfort. Something to do. Something to focus on.
I’ve heard, felt and experienced food be described in all of the ways above. Eating, while something we need to do regularly, is also something we choose to do. We choose what we eat, and when we eat it, and how we eat it. We choose home cooking versus restaurant takeout versus going out to eat. We choose where we grocery shop, what we purchase, and what we fill our cabinets with.
In the last several years, I’ve realized that some, if not all of my habits around food have been impacted by, or created from my struggles with insomnia.
Let me explain!
How I slipped into this cycle
During the peak of my days with insomnia, I got into a cycle that I’m not super proud of. During the night, I’d snack regularly on things that I enjoyed.
This gave me comfort when I was awake and frustrated, this gave me something to do and something to focus on, and it enabled me to have enough energy when I “awoke” or when the sun in the sky told me it was daytime to function to the best of my abilities.
Middle of the night snacks
This meant that my grocery shopping always included a section of middle of the night snacks. Usually, these were carb-based items, sometimes involving chocolate, and definitely not anything that would be deemed “healthy.”
Typically, these pre-packaged, non-perishable items were ones I could keep in my bedroom or an easy grab from the kitchen downstairs, making them more convenient when the rest of the house was already sleeping.
Shopping in an exhausted state
Insomnia also meant that my grocery shopping was done in a state of semi-exhaustion, semi-hunger, and was not always clear-headed. Meal planning was almost impossible, so I bought whatever groceries sounded or looked good in the moment, meaning there wasn’t a lot of forethought going into what I was purchasing or consuming.
Did these snacks and lack of meal choices impact my weight? Yes. Of course. But was my weight also impacted by the fact that I could never find a normal sleep cycle? Absolutely.
Is my body working against me?
Sleep deprivation reduces the hormone leptin, one that usually works to keep your appetite in check and encourages your body to expend energy.
Without regular levels of leptin, your appetite can increase and your desire/energy for movement can decrease. Sleeplessness can also change your metabolism, causing an increase in fat storage and a depletion in muscle.1
It feels cruel, right? You didn’t ask for or choose to struggle with sleeping. And now, in addition to struggling with sleep, you’re struggling with your body image, weight, and other things that affect you around the clock.
Things that helped me stop the cycle
While I don’t have all of the answers on how to fix this, I do want to share some suggestions that have worked for me.
First - recognize the patterns that you’re in. The first part of making changes to your behaviors is being aware that you’re doing them in the first place.
Second - if you’re eating during the night, try to find ways to balance those snacks. I’m not saying that all of your snacks need to become fruits and vegetables, but we all know the difference between healthy snacks and those that are not so much.
Third - talk to your doctor. I mean it! Insomnia has a wide range of effects on every part of our lives and our bodies, and if there are things that you’re struggling with, it always makes sense to ask about it. Did you know weight gain was associated with insomnia before you read this article? There may be other connections you’re not aware of either.
If you’ve struggled with insomnia-related eating habits, please know you’re not alone!
Has insomnia affected your eating habits? If you have found yourself stuck in a cycle? What has helped you break the cycle? Share with us in the comments below.
What do you do at night when you can't sleep?