6 steps to improve your bulimia sleep patterns

Catherine Liberty's picture

Let me ask you a question – did you get enough sleep last night?

Sleep plays a vital role in promoting physical health, longevity, and emotional well-being and we all know that getting a good nights sleep helps us to wake up feeling refreshed, revitalized and energized. But when it comes to bulimia recovery there can be even more benefits.

Why is sleep so important for eating disorder recovery?

  • After a good night's sleep, you feel better, your thoughts are clearer, and your emotions are less erratic. This means you’re in a much better position to make recovery-focused choices and decisions. 
  • Sleep allows your brain to process new experiences and knowledge, increasing your understanding and retention. This is extremely valuable at the start of recovery when you’re continually learning and experiencing new things. 
  • Sleep helps regulate the hormones that affect and control your appetite. Studies have shown that when you don’t get enough sleep your appetite can increase due to hormone imbalances, which in turn means stronger binge urges. 
  • Sleep can increase the speed at which your body repairs itself. This is something that is especially important after suffering with an eating disorder.   
  • Lack of sleep can trigger mood-disorders.  Studies have shown that sleep deprivation can even lead to long-term mood disorders such as depression or anxiety. 

Getting enough sleep when you’re recovering from bulimia is vital for emotional regulation

Researchers from the University of Berkley found that when we get enough sleep the reactivity in the amygdala (the part of the brain that processes emotion) is reduced, resulting in an increase in our ability to deal with highly emotional situations in more rational ways the following day. 

When we apply these findings to recovery they suggest that when we get enough sleep we’ll be far less likely to become triggered to the point of relapse the following day. 

But what can you do if you find it hard to get enough sleep?

Bulimia can disrupt sleeping patterns

Struggling to sleep can be a common problem in recovery, so if you’re struggling with lack of sleep or insomnia then take a look at these 6 simple strategies that can help you to normalize your sleeping behaviours an start getting all of those wonderful sleep-related benefits. 

1. Create a new routine for the hour leading up to bedtime

You can start to prepare your body for a restful night's sleep by following a similar routine each night. This may include things like taking a hot bath, drinking a herbal tea, putting on your pyjamas, reading a book and generally taking some “down time”. When we rush around right up until bedtime our brains can take hours to wind down.

2. Create a bedroom environment that promotes relaxation

A bedroom without distraction will really help you to get the restful nights sleep that you deserve. That means no TV, no computer, no bright lights, just a peaceful, quiet, comfortable and warm environment that will help you to relax.

3. Keeping a consistent sleep schedule 

Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day can really help you to establish a regular sleeping schedule. That may mean no more sleeping in at the weekend but it’s a small price to pay for falling asleep with ease each night. 

4. Make sleep a priority

We live in a society that tends to emphasise the importance of getting things done, a world that tells us working long hours is more important than sleep. Some people even think it’s “weak” or “lazy” to sleep more than a few hours each night, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Making sleep a priority will allow you to excel in your life, rather than simply slumping along due to exhaustion and fatigue.  

5. Exercise earlier in the day

While exercise can help you to fall to sleep more naturally at night time, try to avoid any 2-3 hours before bed.

6. Include some sleep inducing foods in your final snack of the day

Foods that contain the amino acid tryptophan have a calming effect on the brain and help you to fall (and stay) asleep. Your body takes tryptophan and uses it to synthesise the hormones serotonin and melatonin, both of which have a calming and sleep inducing effect.

To reap the benefits of tryptophan eat a snack that combines foods containing protein, complex carbohydrates and calcium. If you’re not sure what to eat think of combining foods like whole grain cereal, peanut butter, granola, milk, yoghurt, cheese, nuts an oatmeal. 


Want to share your own sleep strategies?

If you’ve found a strategy that helps you to get to sleep at night I’d love to hear about it! Members of Bulimia Help are free to post in the comments section below.




mlmartin's picture
I have a tendency to wake up

I have a tendency to wake up around 2 or 3 a.m. and then can't go back to sleep. A white noise machine has greatly reduced that from happening.


rachelj1's picture
Michi48 has a good point. I

Michi48 has a good point. I used to have insomnia and coupled with recovery I started using two app for my Macbook and iphone. The app for my macbook is Resonance and the iphone app is called Brain Wave. Both allow you to customize white noise and ambient sounds. There are options for REM sleep, lucid dreaming, and on the other end, options for concentration and relaxation. I highly recommend both as my sleeping problems have greatly reduced.

Catherine Liberty
Catherine Liberty's picture
Wonderful suggestions, thank

Wonderful suggestions, thank you so much for sharing the things that helped you both :)

It's great that you can get apps for white noise and ambient sounds too, technology is such a gift sometimes!

Catherine x

LauGiggles's picture
I didn't use to get a good

I didn't use to get a good night's sleep for a long time. But, I tried with vitamins for the nervous system such as B complex and with some tea of a plant called valeriana, it really helped me a lot, and now I sleep like a baby :)

Laura xx

DOkkamjong's picture
This article is perfectly for

This article is perfectly for me. I was avoiding sleeping. It was a punishment I gave myself if I binged or purged that day. Because after a b/p I have no energy to study lessons so intstead of sleeping I was trying to study at nights. I had always thought even if I relapsed, I always would have time to study... But after a nonsleep or very less sleeping day my body always collapsed... I am so stupid I know. And I admit that in the mornings I have so powerful urges to binge. I was dying for a sleep but avoiding it for studying... Now starting from today I am going to learn sleeping again. It is so important I know, but all the works which is waiting for me makes me really anxious... Yet, I will definitely try, It is going to be fresh start for me. :)) Thanks Catherine

PS: Ages ago, I was praying God for sleeping (Always have trouble with sleeping) And it really did helped me back then... :))

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