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Should sleep eating be classified as a disorder?

04-09-2014

Should sleep eating be classified as a disorder?

There are some very strange sleep disorders out there, the more we read about sleep the more crazy things we learn about what can go wrong with sleep! For example, have you ever heard of sleep eating? We hadn’t until just recently. It turns out that sleep eating is a real thing.

It has a more technical name, of course

Naturally the professionals do not call it sleep eating! No, they call it something far more technically and impressive sounding, they call it Nocturnal Sleep-Related Eating Disorder (NS-RED). Whatever they call it, it is still the same.

So what is it?

Alright, so it has two names, what is it? NS-RED is a mild sleep disorder where people eat while they are asleep. It is a component of sleep walking, as in the person suffering it will have to sleep walk to wherever the food is (unless they were planning a midnight feast anyway and had food under their pillow). It is a lot rarer than just sleep walking, with only a few percent, if that, of people who sleep walk suffering from sleep eating. The eating happens during the delta phases of sleep, which is deep sleep, just like many other sleep disorders. This is the phase of sleep when the mind has the most limited control over the body. Because sleep eaters are known to wake up frequently during the night, they will also find that they are tired and lethargic during the day.

Is it bad?

So if you have NS-RED is it bad for you? While some people may think it sounds funny the reality is that of those people who suffer from it it can be a dangerous problem. If you think about those who already have weight problems eating while you are asleep just adds to this and because the sleeper is not aware they are eating they will eat anything and everything that is in front of them.

Who gets it?

While they are not entirely sure of why some people suffer from NS-RED and others do not, they have found that there is a link between people who are on rigorous diets and those who sleep eat. In other words, it seems like if you have created a powerful prohibition regarding food in your waking life you may break this when you are asleep.  They have also found that both alcoholism or nicotine addiction are factors, also extreme stress can generate teh desire to binge in your sleep.

What are the signs?

The most obvious sign is waking with food in your mouth or around your face. Many sleep eaters will wake covered in the food they have been eating. Other than that, missing food in the kitchen and a lack of appetite or the sense of being full when you wake are good signs.

What can you do?

If you suffer from NS-RED then you may need to seek medical help as it can be a tricky condition to cure. Prevention and management strategies are often more effective than finding a cure.


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