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Nocturnal Eating Disorder: Gulp!

june 9 nocturnal eating disorderSleep walking is one thing, but sleep eating is a whole new experience for nocturnal roamers. Are you concerned that you may be eating at night when you think you are deep in sleep in your bed? 

Maybe it’s time to look into Night Eating Syndrome. Find out what a nocturnal eating disorder encompasses, and how to get help if you or someone you love is suffering from night eating. 

Nocturnal Eating Disorder Defined

Medical professionals have classified a nocturnal eating disorder as a medical condition, which means there is a method for diagnosis and treatment options. Also known as nocturnal sleep-related eating disorder (NS-RED), this medical condition is not actually an eating disorder. Rather, night eating is related to sleepwalking, in which the individual is walking and eating in their sleep without any knowledge of it happening.

According to the Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders (ANRED) association, 3 to 9 million people, or up to 3 percent of the population, have this condition. Among individuals diagnosed with an eating disorder, such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia, the figures increase to up to 15 percent of this group. If you have an eating disorder and think you are suffering from night eating, speak to your doctor immediately to get a proper diagnosis and treatment.

Occurrence of Night Eating Syndrome

woman eating while asleep.jpgIndividuals who have Night Eating Syndrome may experience it once or twice, or chronically. The condition tends to crop up when individuals are overly stressed of full of anxiety. Another reason that a nocturnal eating disorder occurs is due to dieting or a severely restrictive calorie intake, such as with individuals suffering from an eating disorder. Eating at night is a way for the body to make up for a loss of sustenance during the day. Unfortunately, when individuals are eating at night, they aren’t eating things like lettuce and cucumbers. This leads to weight gain and a feeling of being out of control of your own body, which is the exact opposite effect that people with eating disorders or dieting want to experience.

Symptoms of Eating at Night

How do you know if you are eating at night if, say, you live alone? The most common symptom is gaining weight and feeling tired when you wake up, due to lack of quality sleep. The weight gain often comes from binging on high-fat, high-sugar foods, which are most often consumed with NS-RED episodes. Additionally, with night eating you aren’t concerned with portion control, and as a result will tend to binge on these unhealthy foods. 

Risk Factors for NS-RED

Sleep disorders, including sleep eating, are genetic so if you have other family members diagnosed with NS-RED, you too may be suffering from this condition. Other risk factors include a history of drug abuse, alcoholism, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, or sleepwalking. If you think you are suffering from nocturnal eating syndrome, don’t be afraid to get help. If someone in your household is suffering from sleep eating, encourage them to seek medical help immediately for their health and safety.

Food for Thought

Remember, this is a medical condition, and your physician can diagnose your illness and treat your condition effectively. You can also take other measures to reduce the occurrences of sleep eating, such as via stress management or counseling. Once you have been diagnosed with night eating syndrome, you’ll be able to take back the night, literally. Instead of wandering around, and possibly injuring yourself by preparing mid-dream meals, your nights will be spent doing what your body needs most — sleeping soundly. 

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