In session this week, my dieter, Jason, and I discussed an issue that he was having trouble with: Getting to sleep on time. This is a fairly common problem many of my clients face and it’s an important one to figure out. Studies show that people eat more on days they are sleep deprived than on days that they aren’t, and when people stay up too late, they often want to turn to food to help them stay awake. Both of these things were happening with Jason – he was eating too much at night to help him stay awake to watch “just one more” television show (which never turned into just one more), and he found it much harder to resist cravings and moderate his appetite following a night of missed sleep.
To help him combat his late-night ways, the first thing Jason and I did was institute a bedtime of 11:00pm. Although Jason didn’t initially love the idea of having a “bedtime,” we discussed the pros and cons of having one versus not having one, and Jason was able to see that not having some type of guideline in place for when he would get in bed was leading him to consistently stay up too late, eat too much, and sabotage his weight-loss efforts. It wasn’t worth it. Jason decided that he would also set an alarm on his phone to go off every night at 10:30. That way, it would give him a half hour to wrap things up and remind him that it would soon be time to get in bed. He also decided that he would read his Advantages List when his alarm went off to remind him of all the reasons why it worth it to him to lose weight (and, consequently, why he needed to get in bed).
Jason and I then discussed what sabotaging thoughts might get in the way of him sticking to this bedtime. Here are his thoughts and the response that we came up with:
Sabotaging Thought: I’ll watch just one more show.
Response: One more show is never just one more show. One more show doesn’t work! If it did, I would never stay up too late but I always stay up too late. No more shows.
Sabotaging Thought: It’s okay just this one time to stay up later than I said I would.
Response: “Just this one time” is like “just one more show” – it doesn’t work and I need to prove to myself that I do what I say I’ll do.
Sabotaging Thought: I don’t feel like going to bed right now.
Response: I may not feel like going to bed right now, but I even more don’t feel like sabotaging my weight loss efforts and having to stay overweight. It’s worth it to get in bed.
Sabotaging Thought: It’s not really that important to go to bed on time.
Response: It really is that important. Staying up too late makes me overeat both at night and the next day. Besides, on the days I do go to bed, I feel so much better the next day – rested and alert. I’ll be so happy tomorrow morning I made myself get in bed.
With these strategies in place (a set bedtime, an alarm reminding him of the impending bedtime, and reading his Advantages List and Response Cards if he was tempted to not adhere to it), Jason felt confident that he would finally be able to get himself to bed at a reasonable hour.