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Types of Sleep Disorders:

Night Eating Disorders


Sleep-Related Eating Disorder (SRED)
Information from “The Night Eaters" (Ch. 10) in Sleep Soundly Every Night, Feel Fantastic Every Day by Dr. Robert Rosenberg

A person with sleep-related eating disorder (SRED) gets out of bed while still asleep and eats. Sometimes the sleeper eats bizarre foods or combinations of foods. This condition is closely related to sleepwalking; many times, sleep eating may begin as sleep walking and then progress. When this happens, eating usually becomes the primary sleep disorder activity.

sleep-related eating disorder symptoms Symptoms
Common symptoms of SRED include:

  • involuntary eating or drinking while asleep
  • attempting to eat inedible and potentially harmful items such as cleaning fluid while asleep
  • environmental signs of eating such as food in the bed, a stove burner left on, or a mess in the kitchen

Often another person in the house is the first one to observe the clues to the disorder: food in the bed, a stove burner left on, a mess in the kitchen, or finding the sleeper engaged in the eating behavior.

sleep-related eating disorder dangers Dangers of Sleep-Related Eating Disorder
There are two major kinds of hazards to people with SRED:

  1. Environmental dangers, as in leaving a gas flame or an electric burner on, burning foods if cooking, using knives, or breaking glassware—the options are as numerous as the dangerous objects in your kitchen.
  2. Personal dangers, as in the case of a sleeper ingesting poison, drinking dish detergent, cutting him- or herself with a knife, choking, etc.

sleep-related eating disorder treatments Treatments
First, it is essential to resolve any underlying sleep problems such as sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome (RLS) that could be triggering the SRED. There are also several pharmacological treatments for SRED, including clonazepam (commonly used for sleepwalkers) and topiramate (an antiseizure medication that also suppresses the appetite).

While many patients have reported success with these treatments, there are no guarantees. Regardless, it is imperative that people with SRED make their living environment as safe as possible.

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Night Eating Syndrome (NES)
Information from “The Night Eaters" (Ch. 10) in Sleep Soundly Every Night, Feel Fantastic Every Day by Dr. Robert Rosenberg

While night eating syndrome (NES, also called "nocturnal eating syndrome") is similar to SRED, there is one major difference: a person with this disorder is fully conscious and awake while eating. Instead of being asleep while eating, the person’s biological clock for eating is not in sync with their sleep/wake cycle. This means that they cannot resist eating around bedtime, and an average of over 30% of their caloric intake occurs after dinner.

night eating syndrome symptoms Symptoms
Common symptoms of NES include:

  • an uncontrollable urge to eat after dinner, even if not hungry
  • lack of desire to eat in the morning, or not eating breakfast at least four times per week
  • necessity to eat in order to fall asleep or go back to sleep
  • depression or worsening of mood toward the latter part of the day

Additionally, NES is often associated with the following:

  • daytime eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia
  • hormonal and chemical imbalances
  • mood disorders, such as bipolar

night eating syndrome dangers Dangers of Night Eating Syndrome
While NES can cause health issues like weight gain, people with NES do not usually eat inedible or dangerous substances. However, this disorder is particularly dangerous to diabetics or other people with medical dietary restrictions. In addition to daytime eating disorders, NES is also associated with substance abuse, depression, and anxiety.

If you or someone you know has any type of eating disorder, it is important to receive help right away.

night eating syndrome treatments Treatments
In some cases, NES can be treated with antidepressants. Cognitive behavioral therapy has also proven to be an effective treatment option. This therapy focuses on changing the association between the need to eat and the need to sleep, thus reducing the urge to eat around bedtime.

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Sleep Soundly Every Night by Dr. Robert Rosenberg

Learn More

If you are concerned that you may have a night eating disorder, talk to your doctor.

To learn more about night SRED, NES, and other disorders that might be disrupting your sleep, order Sleep Soundly Every Night, Feel Fantastic Every Day by specialist Dr. Robert Rosenberg.

You can also learn more by reading Dr. Rosenberg’s articles:

Night Eating Disorders

General Sleep Hygiene





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