To sleep, perchance

I talk a lot about people thinking food is optional and appetite is a matter of morality. I've noticed as a society we have a similar approach to sleep.

The chronic sleep deprivation of modern teens is scary, and yet society not only tolerates it but we encourage it. (Kind of like dieting... the other gateway drug to insanity)

Eating and sleeping, of course, interact : changing our blood sugar and affecting a child's weight metabolism as much as activity and food.

Lack of sleep causes 1,500 auto deaths a year in the US, immune problems, maybe even boosts cancer risk. We are a society walking around intoxicated with exhaustion. Our teens are particularly affected: depression, car accidents, difficulty with schoolwork. They need 8.5-9.5 hours a night, and although they aren't likely to prioritize it, maybe we should.

My daughter's eating disorder was preceded by and precipitated sleep disturbances. Late nights, early classes, skip breakfast, pull an all-nighter, "don't eat after 5," dawn and dusk practices, homework, I already ate, I'll fail if I don't cram for this test...

These days I look at sleep and food as priorities that you schedule life around, instead of fitting them in when we can. I wish I had done so earlier.


  1. This is a chicken or egg question for me. My daughter also had sleep difficulties. She would get up in the middle of the night to finish homework that she'd 'forgotten' to do or felt she hadn't done well enough on. She'd be sleep deprived the next day which I'm sure exacerbated her depression. However, with the wonderful benefit of hindsight, I'm wondering if her sleep difficulties were a SYMPTOM of anxiety. And, guess what? Five years post weight restoration she is still anxious...and having difficulties with sleep. It really worries me. What would you all suggest? She is now 19 years old, off at college, doesn't want to "talk" to me about anxiety or sleep problems. I've suggested she then talk with someone else. So far, no go.

  2. I too see a chicken and egg thing here. My first child who later went on to develop AN slept badly as a baby and toddler. When I was pregnant with my second I prayed for a baby who fed every 4 hour hours and slept through the night early on. When I got one I honestly thought there must be something wrong with her it was such a change from her sister. The eldest has always struggled with sleeping, eating and anxiety and has never been able to catch up on lost sleep. The youngest has always liked her bed and now that she is a young adult carousing and staying up late or having to wake early for her work, she just sleeps all day when she's tired.

  3. Sleep might also have implications for recovery from AN. I have seen some estimates (don't know if they are accurate) that a person who sleeps only 4 hours a night needs up to 400 more calories per day just to meet their daily energy needs, compared to someone who sleeps 8 hours a night. When you are awake, you burn more calories than when you are asleep. So, lack of sleep might be as important an issue in recovery as exercise. Has anyone seen any research on this?

  4. I had a sleep study done in November ... the specialist sat me down and said the absolute number 1 thing I needed to do to improve my sleep ... get my nutrition straightened out. Malnutrition does not allow for proper sleep ...

  5. The problem for us is my daughter's nutrition is no longer the issue. But, she is still having sleep and anxiety issues for unknown reasons. I've had her in counseling for ages too. I think she's a real candidate for some anti-anxiety meds as an assist, but she won't go. My husband thinks it's just attention getting when she walks around in a horrible mood. It DOES get my attention, that's for sure. Last night we tried an herbal, melatonin slee aid plus a sound machine. It did seem to help so we'll do it again. Both my mom (who had a tendency to depression) and my sister (former AN) also are very light sleepers and have used elavil for years to sleep. SO, family hx? Attention? Anxiety? All of the above?

    But, I take it as a 'symptom' to be attended to and somehow related to anorexia.


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