Sleep-walking is a sleeping disorder where a person performs certain activities, like walking and talking, while he is asleep. Sleepwalkers have little to no memory of what they did during this time. Their eyes may be open while sleepwalking, but their expression could be dim or plain.
While this condition is rare (about four percent of the total American population suffers from it), the people who have it find it as a complication in their lives. It is not hard to imagine them suddenly waking up in the middle of nowhere, doing things that they have no memory of starting, or finding themselves with a huge pile of food wrappers. The latter situation is regarded as Sleep-Related Eating Disorder.
Sleep-Related Eating Disorder, or SRED, is defined as “involuntary eating during the sleep period that then results in an adverse consequence, such as weight gain or sleep disruption”
About three million Americans are found to suffer from such a disorder, with women the more common sufferers than men. They would often wake up in piles of chocolate wrappers, find soap with teeth marks on them, cigarette butts glazed with butter, and other oddities that might have been eaten while asleep. Sleep-walking has long been known to be caused by extreme stress, however, the factors that cause SRED still remains unknown both in the fields of research and medicine.
How would you know if you, or someone you know, are suffering from SRED?
There are several symptoms that may indicate that you are suffering from SRED:
¢ Little or no appetite for breakfast
¢ Eating more food after dinner than during the meal
¢ Eating more than half of daily food intake after dinner hour
¢ A persisting pattern for at least two months
While these symptoms are similar to those suffering from Nocturnal Eating Syndrome (NES), the difference between the two is that SRED sufferers have absolutely little or no memory of their nightly ritual at all. They are not even aware that they are eating.
The fact that the person is not aware of what they are doing presents itself several problems. First of all is the risk of poisoning. While food is the common items consumed by these night-eaters, it is not exclusive to that. There have been cases of people eating soap, cigarette butts, detergent, and other non-food items. Choking is also a risk as well, with some people reportedly trying to swallow an entire jar of mayonnaise or eat cream of razor blades. Accidents can also happen, with reports of sleep eaters microwaving napkins, eating oatmeal that is scalding hot and other incidents that warranted a trip to the hospital.
The choice between food and non-food items still remains a mystery, as doctors and researchers still actively study this phenomenon. While there have been improvements in the area of medication, SRED is still a condition that requires further research. Perhaps better observation methods, testing equipment, and more data collected could produce more answers to this condition.
After all, it is no joking matter to eat while sleeping.