Do You Eat While You Sleep?

You probably won’t find a person who’s never been caught eating late at night, especially if the fridge is full of scrumptious food and kind of beckons you to check it out. However, if you are regularly binge-eating at night and can’t fully control your nighttime routine, it’s time to seek professional help. Many people don’t know this, but the urge to binge eat at night may signal a sleep-related eating disorder (SRED) that can be very dangerous for your overall health. Ever heard of a sleep-related eating disorder? Don’t feel bad, most people haven’t. Here are the ins and outs:

What Is A Sleep-Related Eating Disorder (SRED)?

Sleep-related eating disorder is classified as a parasomnia and is characterized by abnormal eating habits during the night time. Unlike nocturnal eating syndrome (NES), sleep-related eating disorder mostly affects people when they are partially or fully asleep and can’t control their actions.

During a sleep-related eating disorder attack, people can consume abnormal combinations of foods in substantially large amounts. On top of that, a person suffering from a sleep-related eating disorder will only partially remember that they were eating something at night.

Sometimes it may be challenging to wake up a person during an episode of SRED; instead, there’re high chances to arouse aggression and resistance.

Who Is At A Higher Risk For Sleep-Related Eating Disorder (SRED)?

While both males and females can suffer from SRED, women are often at higher risk, with 70% of all sufferers being female.

Additionally, people who suffer from any eating disorders like bulimia or purging disorder are just as exposed to the risk of getting a sleep-related eating disorder as other sleep disorder sufferers. For example, around half of SRED sufferers have had at least one other type of sleep disorder prior to obtaining a sleep-related eating disorder. Most often people who are exposed to sleepwalking, another type of parasomnias, have the highest chances to obtain SRED in the future.

Finally, some types of medications like hypnotic sleep medications, antidepressants, or antipsychotics may significantly increase the risk of developing a sleep-related eating disorder.

Complications That May Arise From Sleep-Related Eating Disorder

If your sleep-related eating disorder occurs frequently enough, it can cause a number of unpleasant—and even dangerous—conditions. Some examples of the most common are:

  • Sleep-related injury
  • Stomach pain
  • Food poisoning
  • Weight gain
  • Increased risk of Type 2 Diabetes
  • Daytime tiredness from poor sleep

Symptoms Of Sleep-Related Eating Disorder

All sleep-related eating disorder attacks occur at earlier stages of your sleep cycle and can include:

  • Nighttime eating and drinking out of control
  • Partial or no memory of the episode the next day
  • Trouble being awakened during SRED episodes
  • Injuries during SRED episodes
  • Eating bizarre food combinations that a person’s body is not used to

How Are Sleep-Related Eating Disorders Treated?

After an initial interview with your doctor, who will ask detailed questions about your daily and nightly routine, you’ll probably be invited to stay one or more nights at a sleep center in order to monitor your brain activity at night. Once your brain activity is measured and analyzed, your sleep doctor will find an appropriate treatment aimed at addressing the factors that trigger your sleep-related eating disorder. For example, if you suffer from another food-related disorder, your treatment will include a therapy for both disorders, which will help mitigate the effects of each.

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