Sleep Eating | Sleep Eating Disorders | Nocturnal Eating Disorder

Sleep Eating Disorders

Sleep eating disorders are characterized by abnormal eating patterns during the night.

Sleep eating is a sleepdisorder that causes furious, uncontrolled nighttime eating urges.

Usually sleep eaters don't remember what they've done when they wake up as they asleep during their binges.

Sleep eating can be dangerous. Sleep eaters usually go for the sugar and the fat. Pasta or peanut butter is typical fare. Some sleep eaters realize what they've done and take steps to prevent recurrence.

But their preventive methods usually do not address the basic problem. They lock the refrigerator door, install motion detectors in the kitchen, eat extra vigorously at dinner to avoid being hungry later and limit the amount of food they keep in the house.

About 1.5% of the population, are effected with sleep eating, but the number of people diagnosed is rising as doctors learn more about it. Women are twice as likely to sleep-eat as men; people who've struggled with eating disorders or obesity are more prone to this sleep eating disorder.

Symptoms Of Sleep Eating

Symptoms of NES include the following and often persist for at least two months

  • Little or no appetite for breakfast.
  • Eating more food after dinner than during the meal.
  • Eating more than half of daily food intake after dinner hour.
  • Weight gain, daytime fatigue, and unexplained bruises are the common symptoms of sleep eating.

Cause Of Sleep Eating Disorders:

  1. Stress may be a factor
  2. Low levels of melatonin and cortisol may play a role.
  3. Fluctuations in hormone levels, and increased stress.
  4. Sleep apnea or restless-legs syndrome may partially arouse the individual during non-rapid-eye-movement sleep and prompt a nocturnal eating episode

Nocturnal sleep eating disorder can occur during sleepwalking, even though it is not as common as sleepwalking. People with this disorder eat while they are asleep.

They often walk into the kitchen and prepare food without a remembrance for having done so. If nocturnal sleep eating disorder occurs often enough, a person can experience weight gain and develop diabetes.

Night eating syndrome is a closely related to nocturnal sleep eating disorder, is diagnosed when a person eats during the night with full consciousness and may be unable to fall asleep again unless he/she eats.

Even though this sleep eating disorder if mostly found in women, both men and women are at equal risk to these disorders. About one to three percent of the general population is affected and 10% to 15% of people with eating disorders are affected by sleep eating disorders.

Many of these individuals diet during the day, which may leave them hungry and prone to binge eating at night when their control is weakened by sleep. In some cases, people with sleep eating disorders have histories of drug abuse, alcoholism, and other sleep disorders.

Treatments For Sleep Eating Disorder:

Treatment of sleep eating disorders begins with a clinical interview and may include an overnight stay in a sleep laboratory, where brain activity is monitored during the night.


Medication can be helpful sometimes for these disorders; however, sleeping pills should be avoided as they can increase uncertainty and clumsiness that can lead to injury. Additional treatments may include methods to release stress and anxiety.

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