Sleep eating, also known as sleep-related eating disorder, is a parasomnia that involves compulsive, binge eating during sleepwalking episodes. People who suffer from sleep-related eating disorder walk to the kitchen during their sleep to prepare food and eat. Yet, they don’t have any recollection of the event the following morning.
The eating episodes generally last less than 10 minutes and typically occur at least once a night. People who eat during their sleep tend to consume foods that are high in fat, sugar, and calories.
Some sleep eaters even consume non-food items, such as household cleaning products and medication. Of course, this presents dangers to health and can lead to death. It can be difficult to rouse people when they are experiencing an episode of sleep-related eating disorder.
Sleep-related eating disorder can disrupt sleep patterns and produce weight gain. It can also cause insomnia, which can lead to serious health conditions including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, and depression.
In some cases, sufferers can even injure themselves during eating episodes with hot appliances or sharp knives as they try to prepare food. They also may become ill after ingesting non-food items.
In some patients, the disorder is triggered by autoimmune hepatitis, narcolepsy, dieting, stress, or cessation of alcohol/drug abuse.
Eating during sleep may also be linked to restless legs syndrome, narcolepsy, obstructive sleep apnea, periodic limb movement disorder, irregular sleep-wake rhythm, and sleep-related dissociative disorders.
Medications, particularly those used to treat insomnia and depression, also can trigger a sleep-related eating disorder.
Who Is Affected?
An estimated 1.5% of people sleep eat. The disorder affects more women than men. Sleep-related eating disorder is also more common among sufferers of other types of eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia.
There is no cure for sleep-related eating disorder. Though, medications that boost dopamine levels may be helpful in reducing or eliminating eating episodes.
If dieting is the underlying cause, have a dietician plan a well-balanced, nutritious meal plan that is designed to curb cravings.
Setting a strict sleep schedule and getting adequate sleep each night is also essential. In addition, some patients may need to undergo psychotherapy to cope with the psychological distress associated with sleep related eating disorder.
To prevent injury and illness, lock away all potentially dangerous items and clear the path from the bedroom to the kitchen to prevent tripping and falling.
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