Night Eating Syndrome and Sleep Walking

By: Nishanth Reddy

Eating while sleeping? Itís probably a disorder.

Has this happened to you?

You woke up one morning, and you found that there were wrappers of candy bar all over your kitchen. Incidentally, your stomach aches and you see that you had chocolate smudges all over your hands and face. Your parents or your husband tells you that you are up all night long eating, but surprisingly, you donít recall that you did so. Your parents or your husband seemed serious telling you that you actually ate all those chocolates. Is there an inside joke?

Probably not, In fact, the symptoms show that you probably have a night eating syndrome.

Night eating syndrome, also known as sleep-related eating, is considered by medical doctors as a parasomnia. It is not a frequent sleepwalking type. People suffering from this disorder have experiences of recurrent eating episodes while asleep, without actually being aware that they are actually doing it. This nocturnal eating syndrome might happen most of the time that it would show significant gain in your weight. Although this disorder can affect people in all ages and sexes, the sleep-related eating affects young women more than men.

What is night eating disorder?

Also known as nocturnal sleep-related eating disorder or NS-RED, night eating disorder is not an eating problem strictly speaking. It is known as a sleep disorder type that enables people to eat while seemingly asleep. While sleeping, they could eat while in bed, or in some cases, roaming around the house or staying at the kitchen.

The people suffering from this disorder are not conscious during NS-RED episodes. That is why night eating disorder is always related to sleepwalking. Being asleep, they do not know that they eat and cannot recall any incident of eating the night before. If at all, they can only remember in fragments. The NS-RED episode more or less occurs somewhere in a state between sleep and wakefulness.

When people suffering from night eating disorder learn that they have such a problem, they feel ashamed and embarrassed. Some, even with evidence presented by his or her family members, deny that they did that. They cannot believe that they could do such a thing and cannot admit to themselves that they could not control themselves.

The food consumed during the disorder periods are most likely to be high-sugar, high-fat food that people usually avoid when theyíre awake. In some cases, there are those who eat bizarre food combinations, such as raw bacon partnered with mayonnaise, or hotdogs being dipped in a peanut butter. Some even eat non-food items such as soap in the same way they slice cheese.

How can you get NS-RED?

According to recent statistics, about three to nine people or about one to three percent of the total population are most likely to be affected by the disorder, with up to 15 percent of those who have eating disorders affected by night eating disorder.

Many of those affected by the syndrome diet (or at least try to) during the day, leaving them hungry and very weak to binge eating during the night when their control to achieve weight loss gets weakened by sleep. Some people have medical histories of drug abuse, alcoholism, and other sleep disorders such as restless legs, sleep apnea, and sleep walking. They often get tired upon waking up due to fragmented sleep. Many NS-RED cases seem to run along family lines.

How can you eat and unable to remember doing so?

Actually, that could really happen. While research on this disorder is still not that comprehensive, there is a high probability that there are parts of the brain that are truly sleeping even though some parts stay wide awake. Also asleep are the parts that regulate your waking consciousness, so it is no wonder that you cannot remember any memories of gorging on food on the night before.

Is NS-RED curable? What should you do if you have it?

Thank god, treatment is available for your night eating disorder. Treatment starts with a medical interview as well as spending a night or two in a good sleep-disorders center where you brain activity can be monitored. Medication is sometimes helpful, but you should avoid taking sleeping pills as they can aggravate your sleep disorder by adding to the clumsiness and confusion upon waking up and may cause you injury as can regular use of these pills.

Yes, there is treatment. It begins with a clinical interview and a night or two at a sleep-disorders center where brain activity is monitored. Sometimes medication is helpful, but sleeping pills should be avoided. They can make matters worse by increasing confusion and clumsiness that can lead to injury. Regular use of sleeping pills can also lead you to dependency. It would be better that you ask a doctor on what medication to take.

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Nishanth Reddy is an author and publisher of many health related websites. Visit his website to know more about other Sleep Disorders like insomnia, sleep apnea, snoring, restless legs, narcolepsy.

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