The world is full of of embarrassing conditions you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. Every week, Carian discusses one. This week: nocturnal sleep-related eating disorder (NS-RED).
Waking up to a full stomach and a terrible breath usually follows a night of hard partying. For sleep-eaters, however, it’s every day’s reality.
An estimated 10 percent of adults suffer from some sort of parasomnia, or sleep disorder, like sleepwalking or night terrors. Only 1 percent, mostly women, spend the night feasting while in a sleep-induced fog.
Sufferers of this so called nocturnal sleep-related eating disorder (NS-RED) tend to binge on sugary, high-calorie snacks, multiple times a night, without a recollection for having done so. And this is not without consequences. Some occasionally go for inedible objects, such as nail polish or paper. In addition, sleep eaters run the risk of being seriously injured as they often bump into things, cut themselves on kitchen knives or gnaw on frozen food. Psychologically, many sleep eaters feel depressed, frustrated and ashamed. And of course, they gain weight.
While sleep itself is still poorly understood, it’s difficult to say what is the actual cause of sleep-eating. However, doctors are pretty certain that genetics, rather than hunger, play a role. In addition, the disorder is clearly a medical issue and has nothing to do with character flaws, such as a lack of willpower.
“It’s a major physiological force, coming from deep within your brain and body to eat so inappropriately,” explains Dr. Carlos Schenck, author of “Sleep: the Mysteries, the Problems and the Solutions” when interviewed by ABC News.
“Researchers have discovered that the brain of a sleep-eater behaves differently than an average brain. During normal sleep, the part of the brain which controls movement remains asleep. But in a sleep-eater, that part of the brain “wakes up” – and this allows for all sorts of physical activity. But the part of the brain which controls reason and judgment remains asleep,” write Nelli Black and Megan Robertson in an ABC News article.
Sleeping pills may seem like a possible solution, but actually these should be avoided because they can increase confusion and clumsiness that can lead to injury. In most cases, a variety of different medications or a combination of these medications have proven to be the cure. Additional treatments may include methods to release stress and anxiety.
Photo: chrisie.b / Flickr