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Do You Eat While You Sleep?

Do You Eat While You Sleep?

By Brooke Randolph, LMHC

Sleep eating is a rare and dangerous sleep disorder (not an eating disorder), also known as nocturnal sleep-related eating disorder (NS-RED) or sleep-eating syndrome, that affects as much as three percent of the U.S. There can be comorbidity with eating disorders; however, 10 to 15 percent of those who suffer from eating disorders also experience sleep eating.

Definition

Sleep eating is defined as episodes of eating while sleep walking. Often the foods eaten during sleep are high in sugar or high in fat. Eating non-food items (such as soap) or odd combinations (such as raw bacon covered in mayonnaise) have been reported. The sleep eater often awakes in the morning with no recollection of what occurred.

There are several dangers associated with sleep eating. Sleep walking of any kind poses the risk of self-injury by running into things, falling down stairs, etc. Sleep eaters are at risk of injury from eating uncooked food or non-food items, choking, using knives, and even cooking while sleeping and starting a fire. In addition, sleep eating also carries the same risks as binge eating, such as weight gain and increased risk of diabetes.

Symptoms of Sleep Eating

  • fatigue and/or excessive daytime sleepiness
  • emotional distress, anger, and/or anxiety
  • inability to lose weight despite proper diet and exercise
  • family history of sleep disorders, night terrors, sleepwalking and/or sleep eating disorders
  • personal history of eating disorder
  • personal history of alcoholism and/or drug use
  • sleep eating often starts during times of stress, and may only abate after the initial stressor is resolved

Treatment

It is strongly recommended that diagnosis and treatment are done by a sleep specialist. Medical and mental health professionals may also be included in treatment. Because sleep eating is often induced during times of stress, stress management treatment or classes are highly recommended. Sleep disturbance can be the first sign of stress for some. Sleep aids are not encouraged because they can increase clumsiness and/or confusion and increase chances of injury during episodes of sleep eating.

Prevention

Personal stress management is the best prevention for episodes of sleep eating. Drug or alcohol use can increase one’s chances for sleep disturbances, including sleep eating, and are highly discouraged. Tricyclic antidepressants may trigger sleep eating. Some of the best prevention can be found in self-help techniques like locking doors, cabinets, and refrigerators; and playing soft music at night.

Related:
7 Surprising Reasons You Wake Up Tired
6 Bedtime Rituals for Better Sleep
9 Ways to Stop Stress

Read more: Diet & Nutrition, Health, Mental Wellness, Stress, , , ,

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94 comments

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1:57PM PDT on May 10, 2013

thanks for the info

8:31AM PDT on May 4, 2013

Thanks.

7:24AM PDT on Apr 3, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

3:23AM PDT on Mar 18, 2013

Thank you :)

2:49AM PDT on Mar 17, 2013

Thanks for the info

4:45PM PDT on Mar 15, 2013

My sympathies to anyone with this disorder!

7:56PM PDT on Mar 14, 2013

How can it be possible? Ah I see, it is a rare disorder.

6:49PM PDT on Mar 14, 2013

ha! strange!

4:20AM PDT on Mar 14, 2013

Thanks

2:17PM PDT on Mar 13, 2013

Thank you Brandi, for Sharing this!

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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