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Dump the snacks means you'll sleep much better

Steve Harvey’s noontime TV show has become my lunchtime companion not only for its entertaining content but for what it doesn’t contain – commercials for laxatives, toe fungus, and other off-putting conditions.

Set up with several sections – dating, food, manners and social graces – Harvey’s show gives tips on everyday problems including how to skip 3 a.m. snacks.

His guest concerning snacking has gained weight with her consistent waking up at 3 a.m. followed by munching on everything from popcorn, to consuming ice cream, to raiding the pantry shelves and her kids’ snack drawer. How can she curb her mid-sleep binging?

This guest’s problem is mine too. Only I snack on cheese. My thinking – erroneous though it may be – is that cheese will not cause tooth decay. Also, I’ve read that cheese has a soporific effect and I look to it to make me sleepy enough to quickly begin snoozing once I return to bed. My results vary, depending upon many factors – how much cheese I eat (enough but not so much as to keep me awake), how cold I become while reading online as I chew while the heat is turned down, and whether any random worries persist in chasing around in my head.

An expert in treating midnight eating advised four avenues to eliminate this night eating habit which not only adds unwanted weight, but is unhealthy as it disrupts the body’s natural restorative pattern of deep sleep.

As a first step, the expert advises therapy to identify why she turns to food in the middle of the night. What underlying problem or anxiety wakes her and why does she comfort herself with food? Harvey offered to pay for six months of therapy for his guest. We can’t all avail ourselves of such expensive help.

Second step: Get rid of the popcorn, ice cream, and snacks. The simplest way to achieve this is to not buy the foods when grocery shopping. I keep very little snack food in my house. Still, I can accept almost any edible as a substitute when I’m desperate to fall asleep and hope food will help.

Step three: Re-direct attention to something other than food. Little chance of that for me. When I leave my bed, imagining the pleasure of a specific food I know is available in my fridge, I can stall myself with other foods but chances are I’ll finally go for my original craving.

Fourth Step: An app (found at http://momentinthezone.com/tag/overeatingbinge-eating/ has been invented for this specific problem. Called A Moment in the Zone, the app guides you in developing a plan to tackle your eating problem, setting out five specific questions to zero in on your feelings that are compelling you to eat.

The app urges you to eat mindfully; are you hungry or eating just to eat?

What’s pushing you to eat? Are you angry; Anxious? Try to relax.

Do you feel sad or lonely? Food is not a comfort, and after you eat, you may suffer guilt. Certainly, when you see the scale register more and more pounds you’ll wish you had stayed in bed, staring at the ceiling. Napping next day to make up for an hour of lost sleep is easier than exercising to lose an unwanted pound.

Are you eating because you’re tired? Get some rest. Are you bored? Busy yourself. Walk a treadmill, do pilates, read a book, journal about your feelings and thoughts and what’s keeping you awake.

Last winter I routinely got up about 3 a.m. to eat a wedge of cheddar until weight gain made me realize I just liked cheese. A saner sleep regimen  – no coffee after 4 p.m., no naps later in the day – let me slumber without a snack.

Claudette Sandecki sleeps well at her home in Thornhill, B.C.

 

 

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