We get a lot of great questions about sleep, so we’re trying to answer some of them directly. Each week we pick out questions submitted on our Facebook Page, and send them to our medical sleep expert, Dr. Lisa Shives. In this installment, Dr. Lisa tackles sleep eating and working the night shift.
Cheryl White Wilson asks: Is there a way to stop “sleep eating?”
Eating during a partial arousal from sleep is one of a number of parasomnias which means unwanted activities that can occur while sleeping. Other examples include walking, talking, and even sexual activities. True sleep eating is recognized as an actual medical condition called Sleep Related Eating Disorder (SRED) and should be distinguished from Night Eating Syndrome (NES) which occurs at night but while someone is fully awake.
Sufferers from this disorder generally reach for high carbohydrate snacks while still slumbering, and the added calories can lead to weight gain. Because their sleeping patterns are interrupted, another side-effect of SRED is being tired during the waking hours. There is often an associated primary sleep disorder such as sleep walking, sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome. It can also be precipitated by medications such as ambient or anti-depressants. If you’re suffering from SRED, see your sleep specialist to determine the best course of treatment.
Dr. Shives works with SleepBetter.org to provide a medical view of sleep issues. She is one of only a few practitioners with a fellowship in Sleep Medicine in addition to board certification by both the American Board of Internal Medicine and the American Board of Sleep Medicine.