person eating food in bed at night

Late Night Eating with IBD

This is one of those “I am not sure if I am the only one” articles.

But, on the off chance it can help someone realize they are not alone, I find it worth writing. It is a topic I have never opened up about.

I greatly appreciate knowing I am sharing this with such a wonderful, supportive community of people. People who are all looking for the same things - camaraderie and support from those that suffer from the same disease they do, a judgment-free zone, knowing others understand, increased knowledge of inflammatory bowel disease, and/or a place to vent or share their own IBD story. I am really so proud of how close we all have become but I am going to stop being so sappy right now! :)

I guess when I know I am about to share something so personal that only one person in my life knows about, and not even to the extent which it impacts me, that I do tend to want to connect with you all on a different level and also express my never-ending gratitude to you for even taking the time to read the experiences and thoughts I share.


I have mentioned a good amount about my disordered eating thanks to ulcerative colitis but I wanted to share something that has been bothering me a lot more over the past year or so.

Trouble sleeping and anxiety with UC

I definitely am way heavier with my food intake at night but that isn’t even what I am referring to. I have issues sleeping as I know so many people who suffer from Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis do.

My inability to sleep makes me anxious and very flustered. I feel the need for that “instant gratification” a lot of people are talking about that is way too prevalent in our society.

Yep, I am definitely one of those people when I am going through a difficult time who look for something to help take away the physical or emotional pain pretty quickly.

Things I do to help me sleep with UC

I have a number of apps that help me channel some of the negative feelings I sometimes experience including ones for: playing music, relaxation, sleep, meditation, and mindfulness. I also have an app that will randomly remind me to take a deep breath throughout the day.

I listen to sleep stories. I have a sound machine playing every single night that I find really soothing.

I actually recently found out that the app that reminds me to take a deep breath (it is called “Calm” for anyone interested) also includes various types of sounds to fall asleep too. I use my sound machine and that app simultaneously... and always with different sounds playing since they both soothe me in unique ways.

Oftentimes the above things, combined with talking it out with someone close to me and maybe one or two additional items like attempting to exercise if possible and/or watching my dogs run around in the backyard to remind me of simplicity, can help me during the day.

I don't like to take medications for sleep or anxiety

However, at night when everyone else is sleeping and I know how important sleep is for my health and how badly my brain needs it, it is just brutal for me in so many ways.

I do have anxiety medications but I try to save those for dire situations and not use them as sleeping pills. I feel ashamed I need them and also scared too. I don’t want to rely on medications to help me get to sleep.

I also have a hard time giving in to taking pain medication at night if I am in a lot of pain which is a catch-22 since of course when a person is in pain, it hinders his/her ability to sleep (aka painsomnia).

The reason for this is because if I am lucky enough to have something to make my pain and comfort level more manageable, I want to save it for the daytime so I can be as productive a member of society as possible. I want to be able to be around my family feeling semi-decent.

I want to be able to do errands and chores around the house. I want to be able to write and advocate. I want to be able to live as best I can.

Eating for instant gratification and to alleviate anxiety

Having said all of that, I find that not taking medications when I have tried everything else at my disposal and am not getting anywhere, causes me to look for that instant gratification that comes with midnight (or 2, 3, 4 am) snack.

This is the part that I am not sure is unique to me or if others with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) find themselves going through this either sometimes or very frequently since their diagnosis.

The overall mindset around food is impacted by IBD

I have a tendency to eat a lot in the middle of the night to help alleviate some of my anxiety and frustration. I also am hungry a lot of those times, but I believe it goes beyond that.

I know there is something called Nighttime Eating Syndrome which pretty much describes what I am saying - people who eat a lot at night or in the middle of the night.

It is nice to know I am not alone in that there is even a specialized syndrome named for what I deal with but I fully believe it goes beyond that. I think those people who have a severe chronic illness that impacts their digestive tract and overall mindset about food are a bit different given their oftentimes erratic eating and sleep schedules.

We may miss certain nutrients and our body feels an intense need to make up for it an inopportune times. It may also cause our bodies to become anxious because it is craving something that we haven’t given it.

Crohn's and UC can impact so many aspects of our lives

I guess my point in sharing all of this with you is to hone in on the fact that IBD has the ability to change and impact so much. There are things happening behind closed doors all of the time and this, for me, has been one of them.

I wanted to bring it to the surface so if you are someone who struggles with a seemingly never-ending vicious cycle like this, you aren’t alone. Most of us have been through an enormous amount and it takes its toll on our entire bodies - physically and emotionally.

Using food as a coping mechanism in the tough times

It is only natural to look to something like food to help provide comfort during tough times.

At the end of the day, we have to find out the root of what is causing this. Given my anxiety and pain are huge parts of the problem, I need to remember that I am not a bad person for taking something that will allow my brain to get the rest it deserves.

I also need to (and have been trying to work on it) focus more on my nutrition throughout the day given blood sugar spikes could be at play. I really don’t know but what I do know is I will figure it out and get it under control.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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