Can people eat in their sleep?

Carol RoachStarred Page By Carol Roach, 2nd Sep 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Health>Mind & Spirit>Sleep

Conditions that affect sleep, our health, and mental health include such topics as nocturnal sleep-related eating disorder known as sleep eating.


Sleep Eating Syndrome: Causes and Treatment

Sleep eating is a parasomnia, which is a sleep disorder. It also goes by the names: sleep-eating syndrome, nocturnal sleep-related eating disorder (NS-RED) and sleep-related eating (disorder). Some doctors consider it to be part of the sleepwalking disorder as the sufferers of this sleep eating disorder often binge eat (compulsive hyperphagia) during sleepwalking. Though this condition is rare, it is gaining notoriety in the area of sleep medicine. The situation can become dangerous if people are cooking while they are actually sleeping.

Symptoms of sleep eating

  • Daytime drowsiness
  • Binge eating
  • Emotionally distressed
  • Weight gain - people suffering with nocturnal sleep-related eating disorder (NS-RED) tend to eat very fatty and sugary foods such as: chips, cakes, cookies and other foods that can easily be shoved in the mouth. However, they can fry a quick egg or piece of meat.
  • Wandering all over the house while dreaming, using cooking with knifes and other danger things that can injury themselves or set the kitchen on fire.
  • Slow reaction time
  • Difficulty in waking up during episodes even after others have tried several times to wake them up
  • No memory of the incident after becoming fully awake
  • No memory of dreams

Sleep Eating Syndrome: Causes and Treatment

Causes for sleep-related eating

Sleep-related eating disorder can be triggered by stress. It also can be triggered by autoimmune hepatitis. Some dieters binge eat during their sleep. Sometimes it is triggered by the withdrawal from alcohol and drugs. It can also be triggered by the following sleep disorders: narcolepsy, irregular sleep-wake rhythm, periodic limb movement disorder, sleep-related dissociative disorders, and obstructive sleep apnea.

Risk factors for sleep-eating syndrome

Sleep-eating syndrome risks described above such as self-injury and or causing a fire, are among the potential dangers, but there are other risk factors such as gaining weight, and insomnia that can lead to heart attack, diabetes, depression, stroke and high blood pressure.

Who is at risk for sleep eating

Who are at risk for nocturnal sleep-related eating disorder (NS-RED)?

About 1.5 percent of the population are said to be afflicted with nocturnal sleep-related eating disorder (NS-RED)

  • Women are more affected than men
  • Sleepwalkers are often affected
  • A possible hereditary link
  • Sufferers of eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia are often affected by nocturnal sleep-related eating disorder (NS-RED). They represent 10 to 15 percent of the 1.5 percent of people who are afflicted with sleep-eating syndrome.

  • Younger women are more at risk because they are often the victims of anorexia and bulimia. The symptoms usually started in the early 20’s; but these women can have sleep-eating syndrome in later years as well. The new occurrences are often then triggers by stress.


    Sleep Eating Syndrome:Treatment

    There is no cure for sleep-eating; however, medications such as dopamine boosters may ease the symptoms.

    Other suggestions to avoid sleep eating

    • A good diet planned out with a professional dietician can help relieve the food cravings or hunger in the middle of the night.
    • Getting proper sleep is also very important.
    • Locking away any harmful substances non food (sometimes the sleep eater will eat non food substances) and sharp objects.
    • Finding out the underlying problems and addressing them which could include other sleep disorders.
    • Stress management courses
    • Counseling seasons and group therapy
    • Psychotherapy may be advised for some individuals



    If sleep-eating is disrupting your life, causing weight gain, and daytime drowsiness which could affect your parenting, job, or social life, it is time to seek a professional and get the help you need.

    Sleeping eating can cause a lot of distress to dieters and it is important to get a handle on it.

    All photos taken from the public domain

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    Nocturnal Sleep Related Eating Disorder, Parasomnia, Sleep Disorder, Sleep Eating, Sleep Eating Syndrome, Sleep Eating Syndrome Risks, Sleep Eating Syndrome Treatments, Sleep Medicine

    Meet the author

    author avatar Carol Roach
    Retired therapist and author of two books, freelance writer, newsletter editor, and blogger. I write, health, mental health, women's issues, animal , celebrity, history, and SEO articles.

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    author avatar peachpurple
    3rd Sep 2015 (#)

    my daughter loves to build lego blocks from canned food. Yes, she also sleeps while eating.

    Reply to this comment

    author avatar brendamarie
    3rd Sep 2015 (#)

    Carol great article. I learn so much from the articles you write.

    Reply to this comment

    author avatar Shamarie
    3rd Sep 2015 (#)

    I learned a lot from this excellent article. Thanks, Carol!!!

    Reply to this comment

    author avatar Lady Aiyanna
    4th Sep 2015 (#)

    Yes they can and its not nightwalking but just a very groggy person who opens their hungry mouth to eat. I have done it and yes, bottle-fed my offspring too whilst asleep. So what's is the distress talk about???
    Don't go totally by the medical journal and I hate doctors so I know what I did and how to do it with a sleepy person, without anesthetic.
    Oh, BTW, my mum was a nurse, so I learnt it from her. She gave it up to be a school teacher.

    Reply to this comment

    author avatar Jennifer Dombrowski
    5th Sep 2015 (#)

    I have heard that side effects for sleeping pills that are prescription can make you eat in your sleep,. And the worst is drive in your sleep! If you didn';t keep sugary fatty foods would a sleep eater go out for those foods or just eat whatever is in the house? Fantastic article! You are so interesting!

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