Overcoming Insomnia

It’s 4:21am. You’ve been literally tossing and turning for five hours. Willing yourself to sleep. Begging your brain to just shut down for the day. Pleading your mind to just let you fall asleep. You’ve tried praying. Counting sheep. Listening to music. Counting backwards. But to no avail.

You have insomnia.

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It was the bane of my existence during my anorexia. And it’s a universal monkey on everyone’s back that is dealing with/overcoming ED.

There were so many factors as to why I couldn’t sleep. And for me, it was helpful to figure out what the underlying cause was, so as to help me fix it. And sleep.

First of all: FOOD

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How many times, during your disease, (and sometimes during recovery) were you not able to sleep because you were thinking about food? Try, all the time. It was obsessive. I would be thinking about food combinations that sounded delicious. I would be planning out the next week’s-worth of meals and snacks. I would dream about going to different restaurants and what I would order. I’d close my eyes, and there would literally be visions of sugar plums dancing in my head. And this happened sometimes in recovery too!

Here’s the thing. When you’re suffering from anorexia or an eating disorder, your body is in starvation mode. When you’re in starvation mode, you body reverts to its primal roots, and all it can focus on is finding the next meal — finding food to keep itself alive. Therefore, your brain can never truly “shut off” because it’s frantically sending your body “Mayday” messages that it needs to FIND FOOD! SOS

Further, when you try to sleep and shut down, your nerves are all out of whack. Your body is still going off of adrenaline since it isn’t adequately nourished. So a) the adrenaline prevents you from sleeping, and b) your brain, in an effort to survive, makes you desire and think about food since you’re starving.

OK, but I’m in recovery now. I’m eating. So why the #@!K am I still obsessing over food when I should be sleeping?!?!?

Well, that’s the tricky part. During recovery, your body is literally rebuilding itself. We’re talking organs, muscles, tissues, bones, blood cells, hair, fingernails — your entire body is screaming for nutrients to repair itself from the months or years of surviving in starvation mode. Spoiler alert: that requires an astronomical amount of calories. So even though I was eating my meal plan and restoring my weight, my body was like “OMG fooooood! Give me more so I can heal!” My body was just “eating it up” for lack of a better phrase. But anyway, it was hard to keep up with the demand my body needed to heal. So my brain would make me continue to think about food.

So there’s that.

Another reason I couldn’t sleep was due to the anxiety from the weight restoration. I was so completely terrified of putting on the weight, that I couldn’t sleep. I would go over the day’s caloric intake. I’d imagine my body changing. I’d dream of what it could be — both good and bad. All these things caused tremendous anxiety that kept me from sleeping.

It was when I slowly began to accept my body that those thoughts haunted me less and less.

But the biggest reason I couldn’t sleep, was due to my guilt. My anorexia involved so much deceit and deception: lying to my loved ones about my eating disorder, lying about my intake, lying about being in pain and blaming it on my Ulcerative Colitis.  And until I came clean and told them the truth, I couldn’t sleep. I wrote an entire post on coming clean, because it was so instrumental in truly adopting recovery.

But literally, the first full night of sleep that I got, where I slept the entire night through, happened on the day that I called my parents from inpatient and admitted to actually having an eating disorder, and telling the truth about all the lies and deceit. Coincidence? I think not. The lying I was doing was literally eating away at my insides – making my soul decay — and making sleep impossible.

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Not being able to sleep is hands down one of the most frustrating things ever.

By understanding the cause of my insomnia, I could work on getting to the root of the issue.

Maybe it’s that I needed to beef up my intake so my body wouldn’t make me think about food all the time. Maybe I needed to work on self-acceptance, and meditate on how Jesus sees me, instead of how my thighs look that day. But the main thing, was that I needed to come clean to my parents and loved ones with the truth. I needed to let someone else in — Open my heart and be vulnerable and share the anxieties and struggles I was having. That’s when the sleep came. That’s when I could finally turn my brain off and be at peace. 

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beautybeyondbones

BBB: Because we're all recovering from something. // For speaking/business inquiries: beautybeyondbones@yahoo.com

16 thoughts on “Overcoming Insomnia

  1. Oh dear, I am sorry that you are going through those struggles. I will definitely be praying for you. Thank you for sharing your story ❤ I'm sure so many people recovering from ED will find this helpful. I had sleepless nights due to being in starvation mode, also. It is crazy what the body does to survive! Take care xx

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    1. Hi Alison, Thank you for your kind comment and for your prayers. Thankfully, I am in a much better place now. 🙂 I hope that even one person will find this helpful. That’s the goal 🙂 I’m glad you stopped by! Love your blog!

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  2. I’m suffering from insomnia now and was googling stuff and oddly this came up! I can fall asleep okay but I wake up almost every 2 hrs and it takes me awhile to fall back asleep. Do you have any rememdies or advice?

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    1. Hi Floey! Oh gosh I’m sorry you can’t sleep! Sending you snooze-Y thoughts! What always helps me is–and this sounds really wonky–I just repeat the name of Jesus over and over. Counting sheep, counting backwards–those don’t work for me. But thinking about Him does for whatever reason. Hope that helps! Hugs and love xox

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  3. Being who you are is, I think, the ideal way to gain sleep. Whether these patterns persist (they might), that is, the insomnia, your power of mind can dig to the bottom of all situations and set things right. It takes faith, though. Faith is not action, necessarily, nor “piety”. But rather, like a capacitor building up capacitance–charge! As, lightning bursts are displays of what faith looks like in real time. The energy and release involved. If all were action, there would be no faith. There would be none of that necessary time to build “charge”. Mediation. Pen to paper over analysis. Memory-searching. Comparing previous attempts to current. Remembering and thinking of all places, things, situations, pains, joys, discernments, educational tidbits, in one, to build “charge.” Once these charges are all released (in action, as lightning strikes) that should be released, you’ll sleep fine. I promise you. Do you trust me? Faith is not reading the scriptures or “going to church.” Faith is a very measurable, quantifiable substance, as charge, in coulombs. The faith to overcome at any situation will lead to success, regardless.

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  4. When my husband got orders to spend a year in Korea, I didn’t handle it well. Anxiety kept me awake, and when I went through my depression it was the same. I will say, when I struggled I spent a lot of the night in tears giving my fears to God about the unseen. And through those times He comforted me. He strengthened me. I’ve learned from those times, and I’m thankful God spoke to me during the quiet and through the silent tears. ❤

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      1. I did 🙂 I believe He used the depression to prepare me for the year. I lived in a different state than my family, and my close friends. It was my husband and I, and then he was going to be taken away for a year. But there was a couple that approached my door, a previous summer, and reached out to me because they were starting a bible study. This was a few months after I told God, “You need to bring the church to me, because I tried and it didn’t work.” A bad church experience when I was looking after moving to the state. And God did :). That couple became friends of mine, and God provided two other women I would become friends with during the year of being by myself. Unlike my depression, I was more prepared even though I was more isolated. Praise God 🙂

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      2. I agree. We don’t know what can come from darkness. So many only see darkness, and it consumes us. But God, in His great mercy, plucks us out of that one spot, so we can see the whole painting of His plan. ❤ 🙂

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