“How did all these chocolate-wrappers end up in my BED?!” Last night, you drifted off to sleep as usual, but this morning your stomach feels bloated and there are crumbs on the carpet knowledge channele. The worst part: you can’t remember anything.
Welcome to the strange world of sleep-eating.
What is sleep eating?
It’s a sleep-related eating disorder: a combination of an eating disorder and parasomnia (abnormal behaviour of the nervous system during sleep). People suffering from sleep eating disorders aren’t aware of their actions, and they’re more common in young adult women. Sleep eating is a chronic illness that disrupts your beauty sleep and causes weight gain.
Often sleep eaters feel so ashamed that they keep it all a secret and miss out on effective treatment.
What causes it?
The causes of sleep eating are still unknown, but it’s more common among people with a history of sleepwalking. It’s also been linked to a couple of other sleep disorders: obstructive sleep apnoea and restless leg syndrome. In some cases certain medications or acute stress could act as triggers.
How does it work?
A sleep-eater will get up during the night (sometimes more than once) to eat and/or drink. And we’re not talking about a snack. There’s no limit to how much a sleep-eater can eat – they sometimes end up eating far more than they would when awake! Where snacking might mean one or two biscuits out of a pack, a sleep-eater can easily finish the entire pack, and then some! Sleep eating and sleepwalking share many similarities: like sleepwalkers, sleep-eaters can be extremely difficult to rouse from their state and may have little or no memory of an episode.
How is sleep eating treated?
Once sleep eating has been diagnosed, your doctor may prescribe medication to help with specific sleep issues. A well-balanced diet to reduce cravings also plays an important part, as does keeping dangerous foods or substances out of the kitchen.
Lastly, having good sleep hygiene is an important part of treating any sleep disorder, so sticking to a proper sleep schedule is key. Here are the stories of some sleep-eaters:
Joanne Hart for HelloDoctor.com