If you’re sleeping then you’re not eating.
That’s the idea behind a worrying new trend where anorexics abuse sedatives in the hope of losing more weight.
Dubbed the Sleeping Beauty Diet, it has caused concern among experts.
Instead of eating food, women are knocking themselves out with the help of sleeping pills, snoozing through meal times.
Those following the dangerous trend severely restrict their calorie intake, sleeping for up to 20 hours a day, in extreme cases.
Perhaps even more worrying, the trend, also dubbed ‘narcorexia,’ is proving popular on pro-anorexia websites.
One user wrote: “This diet is perfect for the end of the school semester, or just for people who have a lot of extra time on their hands.”
Less extreme advice advocates a better night’s sleep each night and a healthy eating and exercise plan.
The Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plan by Dr Michael Breus suggests people exercise no less than four hours before bed and get at least seven hours of shut eye per night.
But it has been taken to the extreme as people seek ways to skip meals.
The Sun’s nutritionist Amanda Ursell said the new trend was “shocking” and is “not to be dismissed lightly.”
“Most of us need three meals a day just to sustain us from an energy point of view. If you skip breakfast your ability to concentrate and focus in the morning and your mood are going to be not as good as if you did have breakfast. And if you skip lunch the same thing will happen in the afternoon," she said.
“Eating disorders are really big issues and they profoundly affect your physical health and your mental well-being. This is not to be dismissed lightly, this trend towards sleeping diets, because they are deeply, deeply worrying,” she added.
More than 725,000 men and women in the UK are affected by eating disorders, according to the UK’s eating disorder charity Beat.
Ursell added that recent data from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey suggests that many women already struggle to pack enough nutrients into their diets and as a result often suffer deficiencies in iron, calcium and other nutrients.
“If you are cutting out food, you are going to be malnourished. If you are then starving yourself through sleeping, you’re just going to exacerbate it, so you will feel shocking when you do wake up. Sleep itself won’t sustain you. It is almost inconceivable that someone has put this out there,” she said.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet is important for maintaining good health.
The NHS recommends eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, basing meals on starchy foods like rice or pasta, eating lean proteins like fish and legumes and drinking plenty of water.
“Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses with complex causes. The messages and methods of losing weight promoted by the diet industry are unlikely to be the sole and direct cause of an eating disorder, but they may exacerbate the problem or be a contributing factor for someone who is vulnerable to developing one or is already ill, ” a spokesperson for Beat said.
“If someone has become obsessive about what they’re eating or appears to be going to extremes in order to lose weight, it could be a sign that they are developing or have developed an eating disorder. The important thing is not to delay, as the sooner someone is treated, the better their chance of full recovery,” she added.
If you or a loved one are struggling with an eating disorder and are in need of support, please call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.