Night Eating: It'south More Common Than You Think

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Source:   —  April 16, 2016, at 3:40 PM

Research has shown that insomnia and other sleep disorders can have some form of sleep eating. But it'south not frequently talked about, as people are frequently embarrassed about what or how much they eat.

Eating at night, or sleep-eating is more common than you might think. Research has shown that insomnia and other sleep disorders can have some form of sleep eating. But it'south not frequently talked about, as people are frequently embarrassed about what or how much they eat. Sleep-eating can occur either during sleep or after waking up at night, and can get a no of forms. People can have a sense of being hungry before bed and not able to obtain to sleep without eating something, or can wake in the morning to discover the signs of a carbohydrate binge in the kitchen with number recollection of what's occurred during the night.

What types of sleep eating are there?

There are two main types of sleep eating. Night eating syndrome (NES) during which people are awake and alert of what they're doing, but have a powerful sense of hunger, frequently before going to bed or after waking at night. In contrast, people with sleep-related eating disorder (SRED) are unaware of what they're doing and eat whilst they're asleep, much love sleep walking or other forms of parasomnia. Although the foods eaten can be similar, frequently with a powerful preference for carbohydrate and both involve eating at night, it'south felt that these tw disorders have quite different causes and therefore treatment approaches. However, the picture isn't that clear, as I'll frequently look people with features of both NES and SRED, so it'south clear we don't have all the answers about sleep eating.

Night eating syndrome (NES)

Night eating syndrome is typically described as taking more than twenty-five percent of total daily calories after the evening meal. This can be before going to bed or after waking at night. One of the diagnostic criteria that's been proposed comprise needing three of the following five associated symptoms:

  • lack of morning hunger
  • urges to eat in the evening or at night
  • trust that one should eat in order to fall back to sleep at night
  • depressed mood
  • difficulty sleeping

People I look with NES characterize a powerful preference for carbohydrates, and they frequently speak about an frequently insatiable hunger or feeling of a necessity to eat that comes on before going to sleep or after waking at night.

The biology or cause for NES isn't clear, but it's thought that there may be a circadian or body clock component. Appetite, as well as sleep, arrive below the control of our internal clock or circadian rhythm. If the system is working well and we've excellent physical and mental health, as well as regular meals and excellent quality sleep, there is synchronisation of these rhythms. This results in us feeling hungry during waking hours, and not hungry in the evening or during the night. However, if sleep quality isn't good, such as with sleep disorders love insomnia, restless legs syndrome or sleep apnea this synchronised relationship between sleep and appetite may be disturbed. NES has been described in up to one in twentieth people with insomnia or restless legs syndrome, and is also seen more commonly in people with other sleep disorders or fragmented sleep.

So, in managing people with night eating syndrome, there are three key aspects:

  1. See for and treat sleep disorders - As disturbed or fragmented sleep is one of the common associated features of NES, in someone with symptoms of NES, it'south necessary to see at sleep quality. This is generally done with a clinical interview with a sleep specialist and measurement of sleep using a sleep study (polysomnography). If there is a sleep disorder present, such as insomnia, restless legs syndrome, sleep apnea or a circadian rhythm disorder treating that'll frequently reduce symptoms of NES.
  2. Work on synchronising sleeping and eating rhythms - Getting sleeping and eating rhythms back in sync is necessary to reduce night eating. Tools such as melatonin, light therapy and regular snack and sleep times can be combined to manage the circadian rhythm and better synchronise eating and sleeping rhythms to reduce the sensation of hunger in the evening or at night.
  3. Consider medications or behavioral treatment - there have been tiny studies looking at the role of medication such as sertraline or paroxetine. Some people also advocate psychology-based treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy.

Sleep-related eating disorder (SRED)

Sleep-related eating disorder is felt to be a parasomnia. That's a conduct that occurs during sleep that people are unaware of, much love sleepwalking or sleeptalking. As such, the diagnostic criteria for SRED is the presence of recurrent episodes of involuntary eating and drinking that occur during the main sleep period.

People characterize waking in the morning with number recollection of what's happened, apart from finding proof of having been up at night and eating. Much love in NES, there is frequently a powerful preference for carbohydrates in foods eaten, but unlike NES, frequently bizarre food combinations are eaten in SRED reflecting the lack of conscious awareness.

As SRED is felt to be a non-REM parasomnia, the treatment approach is very similar to that for other parasomnias:

  • See for and treat sleep disorders - Non-REM parasomnias are frequently triggered by other sleep disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnea. As such, portion of my assessment for anyone with suspected non-REM parasomnias is an overnight sleep study.
  • Manage trigger factors - Parasomnias can be triggered or made more frequent by a no of things, being sleep deprived, stress and sedatives such as alcohol or sedative medications.
  • Utilize of medication - benzodiazepines, such as clonazepam, can be effective in reducing SRED. There is also research on the anti-epileptic topiramate and dopamine agonists such as pramipexole in SRED.

So if you're having trouble with eating at night, you're not alone, and it may indicate a sleep disorder, so speak to your health professional about it.

This post originally appeared in a modified form in the online sleep resource, SleepHub. You can chase David Cunnington on Facebook and Twitter.

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