Exploration of Nocturnal Sleep-Related Eating Disorder
What if you woke up in the morning and didn't have any recollection of what you did during the night? For some people not remembering is not a problem. Most people just assume that they were in their beds all night, and for most people this is true, but for a small percentage of the population, this is not true.
The average person spends approximately 25 years of their life sleeping (Brown, 2002). For some people, this time is well spent, but for others, their 25 years of sleep might not be spent in their bed.
When people wake from the night and find crumbs dashed across their clothes and sheets, or candy bar wrappers with small remnants of what was inside lying next to their beds, it can be a frightening experience. These people have no recollection of waking during the night, or even eating. The problem is, they didn't wake during the night, but they did eat. How can this be possible?
Sleep eating is similar to sleep walking. It's when a person gets up from a deep sleep and eats with little or no recollection of doing so. Often times the person has little or no sense as to what their actions are. In other words, a sleep-eater may know to turn on the stove in order to cook their food, but they may not think to turn it back off.
Nocturnal Sleep-Related Eating Disorder (NSRED) is often referred to as sleep eating. It can be explained as a disorder that is relatively rare. The basic idea of the disorder is simple: while sleeping, the affected eat uncontrollably. The recall level varies and the only evidence of eating is either in weight gain or in the half-eaten food that was left out (Smith & Pilnik, 2003). This disorder can be explained as a mixture between an eating disorder and a sleeping disorder (Brown, 2002).
NSRED is a type of parasomnia. According to the author of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Deer, Chip Brown (2002), parasomnias are defined as "unwanted and involuntary behaviors during sleep" (p. 35). He also goes on to say, "[parasomnias] are by definition occult, because they appear when most people are unable to witness them" (p. 35). Other parasomnias that are better known than NSRED include sleepwalking and sleep terrors. Parasomnias such as these are extremely common in children ages 4 to 12. In fact, they are so common that they are considered normal behavior (Brown, 2002). Parasomnias, NSRED included, can cause self-injuries and lack of self-control while in a subconscious state (Idikowski, 2001).
Parasomnias have recently learned about and studied. It was thought that many years ago, people didn't have any idea what these sleep terrors were or that they even existed. Scientist who study parasomnias were not the first to describe them. In fact, the earliest description of a parasomnia was back in 1605. Miguel de Cervante wrote about a parasomnia in his novel entitled Don Quixote on page 364. The author writes:
"He was thrusting his sword in...