Sleep eating disorder, or NS-RED (nocturnal sleep-related eating disorder) is characterized by abnormal eating patterns that occur during sleep. It tends to have a gradual onset and precedented by other sleep disorders. NES differs from NS-RED in that those with NES eat consciously, while NS-RED sufferers eat without conscious awareness of their eating episodes.
- Eating more than half the day’s calorie count after dinner
- Frequent awakenings throughout the night requiring eating to return to sleep
- Bingeing throughout the night without conscious awareness
- Waking up the next morning to find residue of food and drink from the night before
- Unconscious night eating involving strange combinations of food
- The unconscious eating of non-food items
- Complex food preparation
Causes for the disorder are unknown, but frequently attributed to those who restrict themselves from food during the day and become vulnerable to hunger and bingeing during the night, have underlying eating disorders, a family history of sleep terrors and other sleep disorders such as insomnia, and those who experience extreme stress or anxiety. The disorder is much more common in women than in men, especially in those already diagnosed with an eating disorder. About 75% of those with sleep eating disorder are female and in their mid-20’s. Before any treatment is sought, sufferers should check to see if an underlying condition such as narcolepsy, restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea, drug abuse/dependence, or malnutrition exists. These can all contribute to the development of a Sleep Eating Disorder.
- Overnight stay in a sleep clinic to monitor brain activity
- Stress and anxiety reduction techniques
- Limiting alcohol and caffeine intake
- Quitting smoking cigarettes
- Hypnosis or individual therapy
- Change in diet and medications according to doctor recommendations
One step sufferers can take on their own to alleviate the problems of sleep eating disorder are to ensure healthy sleep hygiene. Certain changes in habits can help alleviate eating disorder symptoms.
- Going to bed at the same time every night
- Regulating your biological clock by waking up at the same time each morning
- Keeping the bedroom dark and quiet
- Avoiding TV and other sources of bright light at least two hours before bed
- Drinking a cup of tea or warm milk an hour before bed time
- Keeping food out of reach at night
Doctors may prescribe sleep medication to alleviate the condition. A doctor and/or therapist can work on treating any underlying conditions and helping to draw up a stress reduction plan for the patient’s day to day life. Medication known best for treating Sleep Eating Disorders is Topiramate. Topiramate has been known to reduce night time eating, substantiate weight loss, and balance out the patient’s relationship with food and sleep. Medical or psychological evaluation is recommended to treat parasomnias as they are complicated and can be very serious. Chronic sleep eaters are at risk for type II diabetes, high blood pressure and other serious health issues.