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By: Kevin Asp, CRT, RPSGT on June 11th, 2021

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Sleep Related Eating Disorder: Signs, Symptoms, Causes and Treatment Options

Sleep Disorders | narcolepsy | restless legs syndrome | SRED

As a sleep professional, it's important that you educate your patients on parasomnias, such as a sleep-related eating disorder (SRED), since sleep disorders like these could negatively impact a patient’s health through weight gain and obesity.

The journal Psychiatry provides these sleep-related eating disorder statistics:

  • It is estimated that almost 5% of the general population has SRED and it occurs in 9% to
    17% of people with eating disorders
  •  Approximately 70% of SRED patients experience nightly eating, typically when they are
    not even hungry or thirsty
  • Over 65% of these patients eat unpalatable substances like buttered cigarettes and
    frozen foods

Cleveland Clinic provides these facts about SRED:

  • Both women and men can develop this condition, but it's more common in women
  • Typically people between 20 and 40 years old develop SRED
  • SRED seems to affect around 1% to 3% of the general population
  • Ten to 15% of individuals with eating disorders develop SRED

Episodes always occur in a manner that seems "out of control" and when the patient only
awakes partially.

What Is a Sleep-Related Eating Disorder?

SRED is a form of parasomnia (a sleep disorder). It is defined by repeated episodes of rapid binge eating and drinking while asleep during the night. The episodes can occur when the person is partially awake and often seem out of control. The patient might not have any memory (or only a slight memory) of the binge even occurring.

During an episode, individuals with SRED might consume certain foods they wouldn't
typically eat in the daytime and might even consume a strange combination of foods or
inedible substances.

SRED can occur while a person is sleepwalking. Individuals with this condition eat while
they're sleeping. They often walk into their kitchen and begin preparing food without even
recalling doing so afterward.

Many of these individuals diet during the day, which could be leaving them hungry and
susceptible to binge eating during the night time when they have less control because they're sleeping. In certain cases, individuals have a history of drug abuse, alcoholism or other sleep disorders.

Other medical conditions or sleep disorders that interrupt sleep and that cause sudden awakenings could also trigger SRED.

What Are the Effects of Sleep-Related Eating Disorder?

If it occurs often enough, those with SRED might:

  • Gain weight
  • Develop metabolic conditions (elevated cholesterol or Type 2 diabetes)
  • Injure themselves when they prepare food (burns, lacerations)
  • Feel tired or sleepy during the day or have unrefreshing sleep
  • Develop tooth decay or cavities from eating sugary foods
  • Become sick from ingesting toxic substances or inadequately cooked food

To learn more about parasomnia overlap disorder research and current understandings, read the full article in the 2021 Q1 issue of A2Zzz.

Read the 2021 Q1 A2Zzz Issue


About Kevin Asp, CRT, RPSGT

Because of the implementation of his best practices of Implementing Inbound Marketing in its Medical Practice, he turned the once stagnant online presence of Alaska Sleep Clinic to that of "The Most Trafficked Sleep Center Website in the World" in just 18 months time. He is the President and CEO of inboundMed and enjoys helping sleep centers across the globe grow their business through his unique vision and experience of over 27 years in sleep medicine.

  • Connect with Kevin Asp, CRT, RPSGT