Binge eating and sleep research offers treatment hope

17/01/2023 | 3 mins

People who experience binge eating have poorer quality sleep, including insomnia and daytime sleepiness, which could change the way eating disorders are treated, according to the authors of a new study. 

Professor Amanda Salis, from The University of Western Australia’s School of Human Sciences, was co-author of A systematic review with meta-analyses of the relationship between recurrent binge eating and sleep parameters, published in the Journal of Obesity. 

Professor Salis said binge eating was a defining feature of a number of eating disorders and was also associated with health problems such as obesity, diabetes, chronic pain, reproductive difficulties and depression. 

She said 31 studies of eating disorders and sleep in adults, adolescents and children were analysed for the paper in what’s believed to be the first analysis  of  its kind in the area. It found binge eating was associated with poorer overall sleep quality and possibly greater daytime sleepiness, insomnia and difficulty falling asleep.  

“Poor sleep in itself is known from previous research to impact on mental health and sleep problems can contribute to an increased drive to eat unhelpful foods high in processed fats and sugars,” Professor Salis said.

Professor Salis said cognitive behaviour therapy tailored for eating disorders was the gold standard treatment for eating disorders but the guide for clinicians did not mention sleep problems as a major factor in promoting binge eating.

“From the findings of this study, people with binge eating could potentially benefit from finding out if they have poor overall sleep quality,” she said.

“This can be done using free online self-report surveys such as the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index and the Mini-Sleep Questionnaire.

“If the results indicate poor sleep quality, then efforts to investigate and improve sleep quality could potentially improve any efforts to reduce binge eating.

“Ideally there would be more research to find out whether concurrent treatment for binge eating and  sleep problems results in better health outcomes compared to treating the eating disorder on its own.”

Media references

Cecile O’Connor  (UWA Media & PR Advisor)        6488 6876

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