In order to understand what causes sleep eating we need to look at what causes us to sleep walk. Sleep-related eating disorders are abnormal eating patterns during the night and can occur during sleepwalking. Sleep deprivation, chaotic sleep schedules, fever, stress, magnesium deficiency, and alcohol intoxication can trigger sleepwalking. You can walk into the kitchen, prepare food (or non-food) and eat without recollection the next day. People usually eat high caloric foods and don’t understand why they are gaining weight or even developing type 2 diabetes. Another closely related disorder is night eating, when one cannot fall asleep easy unless they eat. Symptoms of sleep eating are; little or no appetite the next morning, eating late at night, eating most of your calories after dinner and waking up during the night which requires eating to fall back to sleep. More on magnesium deficiency: Magnesium Sleep
Both men and women are susceptible to sleep eating, but it is more common among women. Many of these individuals diet during the day, which may leave them hungry and vulnerable to binge eating at night when their control is weakened by sleep. In some cases, people with sleep-related eating disorders have histories of alcoholism, drug abuse, and other sleep disorders like restless leg syndrome.
Treatment of sleep eating begins with an initial consultation with your physician and may include an overnight stay at a sleep clinic where you will be monitored through the night. Alternative supplements may be recommended to combat symptoms like magnesium, melatonin and GABA. Other treatment may include stress management, counseling and limiting caffeinated beverages and alcohol. Small study suggests that topiramate (Topamax), a drug to treat epilepsy has helped with sleep eating disorders although there are side effects like clouded thinking and tingling in the hands and feet. If your restless leg syndrome is causing you to sleep eat, drugs that boost dopamine levels may help both conditions. A magnesium supplement can also help with restless leg syndrome.
What do you do if you are sleep eating? See your doctor to make sure you are suffering from this sleep eating disorder and determine the cause. Tell her/him all the medications and supplements you are taking, include recreational drugs and alcohol. Also provide your eating habits and dieting regimens. If you are on a diet…stop, as dieting only exacerbates the problem. Eating a limited amount of calories during the day may trigger your body’s need for more calories during the night. If you are stressed about a relationship, money matters or work, see a therapist to help you work through these issues. Finally get everything out of your home that would be harmful if you ate it. This means kitchen/bathroom cleaners, paint, paint thinners, etc. You may want to child proof cabinets or kitchen drawers that contain knives, scissors or anything sharp. Take your medication to the office so you won’t take it while you are sleep eating.
More on sleep eating see: Anorexia Nervosa Causes Nocturnal Sleep-Related Eating Disorder and Sleep Deprivation. The content provided in What Causes Sleep Eating? is for information purposes only, intended to raise the awareness of different solutions for your sleep problems and should not be considered medical advice. For medical diagnosis and treatment, please see your qualified health-care professional.