Finding a Path of Recovery for Sleep Eating
Is it Happening to You?
You are vigilant and steadfast during the day with your nutrition. Carefully, you log every meal, count every micro, and consistently make healthy choices. Then the day fades to night and something takes over. With no inkling of what precipitated the action, you're inclined to start eating things that are unhealthy.
The eating habits that were planned out with surgical precision during the day are now being thrown out of balance by the urge to devour foods high in carbs, sugars, and starches. Some nights you may not remember eating anything but to your surprise, there are cheese wrappers at your kitchen counter the next morning. While this may be a daunting realization, you are not alone.
Frustration and Confusion
You choose your nutrition wisely based on your day and exercise. By counting the calories at each meal and drinking more water than salmon, you find a healthy balance. Rock-solid self-discipline affords you the ability to not splurge by eating out. None of that seems to matter as soon as the sun sets. The monster of nocturnal eating rears its ugly head and begins to wreak havoc on your progress despite your efforts during the day.
On occasion, you may not remember eating anything until you find the leftovers besides the bed or food splattered on the floor. A quick glance in the refrigerator reveals that half the milk you bought yesterday has been drunk, and there is no roommate to blame it on. There is no recollection as to what happened to it. Sadly, some nights you may not remember anything at all.
Perhaps you have woken up to find your kitchen looks like someone cooked enough food for three people and left the mess behind for you to clean up. With the knowledge you did not entertain anyone recently, the only explanation is that person was you. You may even remember vague details of frying an egg or baking a sweet treat for yourself. Fear begins to rise as the feeling that you could have burned the house down by leaving a burner before going back to bed.
Initially, you may be able to fall asleep just fine but are awoken in the middle of the night and are unable to go back to sleep until that pit of hunger deep in your core is satiated. All that vigilance during the day amounts to nothing. You are frustrated and you do not understand why you keep eating during the night. You are not alone.
Sleep-related eating disorders are not anything new or part of some new revolutionary school of thought. They just aren’t talked about. When people talk about eating disorders, automatically binge eating or anorexia comes to mind. Individuals who try to speak to their friends and family about their issues with sleep eating are often told that they can control this behavior by simply choosing not to indulge. They are told to just go back to sleep. But how do you stop something that you barely remember when you wake up? How do you control something that happens when you are not fully conscious?
Giving the Beast a Name
What you are experiencing is a nocturnal eating disorder. This type of eating disorder is relatively new and not very well studied at this time. Depending on what you are experiencing you will fall into one of two categories.
Nighttime Eating Syndrome (NES) involves an individual being completely awake and unable to sleep until they eat something.
Nocturnal Sleep-Related Sleeping Disorder (NS-RED) occurs when the individual is in a complete state of sleep. The individual does not remember either preparing a meal or snack nor consuming it.
Causes of Nocturnal Eating Disorder
High levels of anxiety and stress have been linked to forms of nocturnal eating disorders. Individuals who experience nocturnal eating disorders have also expressed having a poor relationship with food during the daytime hours as well. Some individuals who experience issues with nocturnal eating report that they also have issues with depression.
Both can be caused by psychotropic and pain medications. Some studies have shown that some eating disorders can be caused by genetics. Have you ever asked any family members if they experience some of the same things you do? While admitting you don’t remember eating at night will seem difficult it is the first step into solving the problem.
The Danger of Nocturnal Eating
Nocturnal eating disorders result in obesity, insomnia, high blood pressure, poor daytime nutrition, and possible injuries such as cuts, burns, and choking hazards. It is hard to control your weight issues if you are unable to keep from eating or do not remember what you ate. Subsequently, if you are consuming the foods you avoid during the day, you may be tripling the amount of salt, sugar, and starches that you would consume during a normal day. You cannot outrun poor nutrition, whether you mean to eat it or not.
Are you unable to sleep or have trouble falling asleep unless you eat something? If so you may be experiencing a Nocturnal Eating Disorder. While seeking help for disordered eating is difficult and takes courage, there are others out there that experience the same frustrations as you. You are not alone and it is okay to ask for help. Acknowledging that the issues you have with food keep you from falling asleep opens the door for healing. If you find signs that you are eating at night but have no memory of the meal, there is hope to find recovery and a path to wellness. At Achieve Medical Center, we provide comprehensive and compassionate wellness services to children, adolescents, and adults. If you or a loved one are struggling with disordered eating, Achieve Medical Center has the tools and experience to help you recover. Call us today for more information, (619) 375-3977.