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Nocturnal Sleep-Related Eating Disorder (NS-RED)

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Sleep-related eating disorders or also called nocturnal sleep-related eating disorder or NS-RED are typified by abnormal eating habits during the night while asleep. A person with this disorder manifests episodes of compulsive excessive eating while sleepwalking at night time. This condition is found to be more common in the female population. There are studies suggesting that 66% of those with the condition are women. The symptoms usually appear in 20-30 year age group.

A person may wake up in the morning with food leftovers on the table, a chocolate-stained nightshirt, but without any recollection of ever eating food the night before after dinner. This could be a symptom of nocturnal sleep-related eating disorder, a relatively unknown condition where a person eats food during the night while they appear to be asleep. The parts of the brain controlling memory are also asleep and so the person cannot and will not remember night time binging.

People with NS-RED who wake up and discover evidence of their night time eating usually feel embarrassed and extremely fearful that they may be losing their minds due to not recalling the eating incident. People with NS-RED stands the risk of causing injury to themselves as they may swallow non-food items like buttered cigarettes or worse toxic items. They may burn themselves while preparing their food, or bump into walls and appliances as they trek to the kitchen. Soap may be sliced like cheese or liquid soap may be mixed with chocolate drink.

People with NS-RED tend to consume comfort food during night eating episodes which contains high-fat and high-sugar. These foods are usually avoided by person during the day.  Because of such unconscious state, people may end up eating bizarre and uncommon food combinations like raw meat dipped in peanut butter, uncooked bacon smudged with mayonnaise, to name a few. If undiagnosed and untreated, people with NS-RED are likely to develop further worsening of their symptoms.


The doctor will conduct a full evaluation, review psychiatric and medical history to rule out other potential causes (medical or mental), and order imaging studies, lab tests, and if necessary sleep studies. There are some medications which may be causing the NS-RED. The medications can be adjusted or replaced the medications with less intrusive ones.

The doctor may also recommend a video-recorded sleep study, also called polysomnography. This is a painless assessment during which you will have sensors attached to your body to observe behavior of sleep disorder.


The doctor may conduct an interview to begin the treatment of NS-RED. It may also include a stay in a sleep lab for one night to monitor the activities of the brain during sleep at night.

Medications may be helpful. Sleeping pills are not part of the typical medication regimen and should be avoided as they can confuse the biological body system. Other non-medical treatments may be tried like learning to cope with stress or anxiety. This may include stress management classes, assertiveness training, counseling, and removing alcohol and caffeine from daily habits. Some environmental changes may also be required like making the bedroom and kitchen safer.

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