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If you suffer from an eating disorder now or have in the past, please email Joanna for a free telephone consultation.



Eating Disorder Recovery
Joanna Poppink, MFT
Eating Disorder Recovery Psychotherapist
serving Arizona, California, Florida, Oregon and Utah.
All appointments are virtual.


Sleeping baby boy

Sleep: how it affects your weight and contributes to your eating disorder.

Before you focus on the mirror, diet or exercise, try developing a healthy and consistent sleep routine.

A 15-year study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics shows that even partial sleep deprivation relates to weight gain.

The recommendations are: "Establish a reasonable bedtime and wakeup time that works for your life. Make sure you get eight hours of sleep each night. Work up to eight hours gradually, if necessary. Adjust your activities so that you are in bed in time to get those hours."

Statistics show that more than 35% of American adults are obese, and more than 28% are sleep deprived, i.e., sleep less than six hours a night. This study shows there is a connection between these numbers. Studies are showing what many clinicians have suspected for years. Inadequate sleep is part of the eating disorder profile.

I am a clinician focusing on eating disorder recovery during the acting out stage and the recovery stage, where eating symptoms have stopped, but eating disorder mind patterns still exist. People come to me with the symptoms and problem behaviors that are part of a life lived while maintaining and sustaining an eating disorder after the behaviors. They want help. They want relief. I continually examine what recovery looks like, what it means, and what's required to set it in motion.

If a person is willing to work for recovery (rather than find a quick fix to minimize symptoms), we can work together with lasting recovery as our goal. Examining sleep habits is part of the work.

This may not seem relevant to eating or starving except, perhaps, to the relief that comes with knowing that at least, while you are sleeping, you are not eating. Yet, I have to take that back.  Some people get up at night to eat.

Recovery, to me, means recovering a healthy, graceful, and harmonious balance within your mind, spirit, and body so that you are resilient and can deal with life challenges without resorting to eating disorders or any other destructive behaviors designed to numb you to reality. You have to grow and develop into a more complete and whole person without your eating disorder filling in the cracks.

Restoring or establishing a balanced energy in your mind, body, and spirit for the first time requires adequate nourishment regularly. Nourishment includes sleep. Your body and mind need sleep, and your emotions and responses are triggered when you are sleep-deprived.

  • Your perceptions are distorted when you are tired.
  • You get into arguments with others because you misinterpret their words or behavior.
  • You get angry, frightened, or both because sleep deprivation doesn't allow you to be resilient and creative in the face of a challenge.
  • And, you eat.
  • You eat because you misinterpret your fatigue as needing an energy burst, which comes with food, especially sugar, and carbohydrates that quickly become sugar.
  • You eat because high emotions coming from your sleep-deprived state are too much to bear.
  • You want soothing food to calm you down and take your feelings away.

Sleep is not a miracle cure for an eating disorder. However, adequate sleep will smooth out your day, reduce your calorie intact,  and allow you to work on your real issues rather than those caused by or magnified by sleep deprivation.

Your Sleep Check:

Do you fall asleep

  1. in front of the TV?
  2. while reading in a chair?
  3. while on the phone?


  1. Do you avoid getting into your bed to sleep?
  2. Do you fall asleep while dressed in your day clothes?
  3. Do you need the alarm to wake up?
  4. Do you roll over and go back to sleep in the morning?
  5. Do you drag yourself unwillingly out of bed in the morning?
  6. Do you sleep 10, 12, 14 hours now and then?
  7. Do you need caffeine to get you through the day?
  8. Do you pride yourself on needing very little sleep?

Please journal about your sleep patterns and attitudes about sleep. You may find that your sleep issues have more impact on your life, your eating disorder, and your weight than you realized.

P.S. From Shakespeare

"The innocent sleep,
Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleave of care,
The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,
Chief nourisher in life’s feast."

Macbeth (2.2.46-51)

Not Only Amount, But Timing of Sleep Can Be Important for Mental Health

See: Healing Your Hungry Heart: Recovering from Your Eating Disorder, chapter 5, "Boundaries: a challenge in early recovery."

Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Written by Joanna Poppink, MFT. Joanna is a psychotherapist in private practice specializing in eating disorder recovery, stress, PTSD, and adult development.

She is licensed in CA, AZ, OR, FL, and UT. Author of the Book: Healing Your Hungry Heart: Recovering from Your Eating Disorder

Appointments are virtual.

For a free telephone consultation, e-mail her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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