Sleep Eating

nighttime eating by Peter Oumanski

Nocturnal Sleep-Related Eating Disorder (NSRED), also known as sleep eating or somnambulistic eating, is a combination of a parasomnia (sleep disorders) and an eating disorder. It is a category within somnambulism (sleepwalking) that includes behaviors connected to a person’s conscious wishes or wants. Thus many times NSRED is a person’s fulfilling of their conscious wants that they suppress; however, this disorder is difficult to distinguish from other similar types of disorders. NSRED is closely related to Night Eating Syndrome (NES) except for the fact that those suffering from NES are completely awake and aware of their eating and bingeing at night while those suffering from NSRED are sleeping and unaware of what they are doing. Both disorders have a common occurrence of approximately one to five percent of adults, and have been predominantly found in women, with a young adult onset.

Typical behaviors include: ‘Partial arousals from sleep, usually within 2 to 3 hours of sleep onset, and subsequent ingestion of food in a rapid or ‘out of control’ manner.’ Sleep eaters also attempt to eat bizarre amalgamations of foods and even potentially harmful substances such as glue, wood, or other toxic materials. Paatients eat sweets, pastas, both hot and cold meals, improper substances such as ‘raw, frozen, or spoiled foods; salt or sugar sandwiches; buttered cigarettes; and odd mixtures prepared in a blender.’ Some eat their food with their bare hands while others attempt to eat it with utensils. This occasionally results in injuries to the person as well as other injuries.

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