This is going to sound ridiculous, but I can’t sleep in the dark. As a child I had a lot of nightmares and couldn’t get to sleep without a light on. I am now 42 and have two kids of my own and I still can’t sleep in the dark, although I can manage with the door open and the landing light on. When my partner is away (he travels for his work at least two weeks of the month) I keep a table lamp on and eat sugary foods in bed before I can go to sleep. I am a very sorted, organised mother of two but at night I am just a mess, what can I do? – S.T, Balham
You sound quite ashamed, but I have to say that you are most certainly not alone in this. There is a night-eating-syndrome (NES), where food is used to comfort and soothe rather than to nourish, which is thought to affect two per cent of the population.
Also looked at logically, your needing the light and the sweet foods makes total sense given your childhood fear of night and darkness. They have become a sort of self-medication for your fear.
Just like alcohol-induced sleep, sugar-induced sleep is not healthy. So the trick is to find healthier techniques to deal with the anxiety. The eating and sleep issues are bound up in each other but start by seeking nutritional advice and eating a balanced regular diet in the day, and talk to your GP about ways you can stabilise your sleep patterns. Next you can start to explore stress management skills such as yoga, mindfulness, and creativity or hobbies.