All-you-can-sleep buffet

By Staff Writer • Published: May 26th, 2016
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

We’ve all indulged the occasional craving for a midnight snack, but for some people that’s just where the trouble begins.

Eating and sleep disorders take many forms, but there are at least two that occur in tandem: nocturnal eating syndrome and sleep-related eating disorder.

With nocturnal eating syndrome, the sufferer wakes up in the middle of the night with an uncontrollable desire to eat, despite how much or how recently they ate before bed. Many people with this disorder find it difficult to return to sleep without raiding the refrigerator. They tend to consume more calories than they did at dinner — generally eating half their daily food intake under the veil of night. Sufferers usually have little to no appetite for breakfast.

Sleep-related eating disorder also causes people to get up during the night to consume a nocturnal snack, but they often don’t remember it in the morning. This disorder is similar to sleepwalking. Only discarded food packaging or a messy kitchen reveal that anything happened the night before.

Both of these eating disorders cause sufferers to eat a large quantity of high-calorie food, which can lead to a variety of health problems, such as Type 2 diabetes and hypertension. Nocturnal eating disorders are most common in women under 50.

The causes these of disorders are varied, but they can be symptoms of underlying medical conditions such as sleep apnea, depression or stress. Prescription drugs can also be a cause — especially those that affect sleep.

However, it’s possible that, with a full evaluation, a sleep observation or the right medication, your physician will be able to treat the disorder — and you will be able to call it a night without unwelcome after-hours cravings.