Sleep Education

American Academy of Sleep Medicine 

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Sleep Eating Disorder – Symptoms & Risk Factors


Sleep eating disorder  is defined by repeated episodes where you rapidly binge eat and drink after you wake up in the night. These episodes are out of control and tend to occur when you are only partially awake. You may only have a slight memory or no memory of the binge. This may occur nightly. The food is often highly caloric and consumed in strange combinations. People with sleep related eating disorder might accidentally injure themselves by eating toxic substances, burning themselves or causing fires.

People with sleep eating disorder often:
  • Have repeated episodes of “out-of-control” eating and drinking during the time when they sleep
  • Eat strange forms or combinations of food
  • Eat or drink inedible or toxic substances
  • Have eating episodes that disturb their sleep, causing insomnia. As a result, their sleep is not refreshing or you are very tired during the day
  • Injure themselves
  • Do something dangerous while getting or cooking food
  • Have a loss of appetite in the morning
  • Have their health decline from eating foods that are high in calories
It is also important to know if there is something else that is causing your problem. It may be a result of one of the following:
  • Another sleep disorder
  • A medical condition
  • Medication use
  • A mental health disorder
  • Substance abuse

Risk Factors

It is not known how many people have SRED. Like other eating disorders, it is much more common in women than in men. Females represent about 65% to 80% of SRED patients. The average age when it first occurs is 22 to 29 years. It tends to be an ongoing and long-lasting problem.
SRED can develop on its own. It can also result from the use of certain medications. This is especially true of medications used to treat depression and sleep problems. 

More than one sleep disorder may even be found in a person with SRED. More than half of all people with SRED had another parasomnia before SRED began. Sleepwalking is the most common sleep disorder related to SRED. Many people with SRED were sleepwalkers as children. 

Other sleep disorders that can be closely linked to SRED include the following:
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Periodic limb movement disorder
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Irregular sleep-wake rhythm
  • Sleep related dissociative disorders
Other factors that may lead to the development of SRED include the following:
  • Use of certain medications
  • Ending the habit of smoking
  • Ending the abuse of alcohol or drugs
  • Stress
  • Dieting during the day
  • Daytime eating disorders
  • Narcolepsy
  • Hepatitis (liver infection)
  • Encephalitis (brain swelling)
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