01/30/2012 02:02 pm ET

Your Sleep Questions Answered: Nocturnal Eating Disorder

Nocturnal eating disorder affects 1 to 3 percent of the general population, and 80 percent of people with this disorder are women. We scoured the Web to find answers to some frequently asked questions about nocturnal eating disorder, giving you background information so that you or your loved one can literally sleep better at night.

Note: You should not rely on the information in this post as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or other accredited sleep expert. --Andrea Hermitt

Nocturnal Eating Disorder

People who have nocturnal eating disorder suffer from both eating and sleeping disorders: not only do they eat while sleeping, they also eat large amounts of foods that they do not remember eating.


People with nocturnal eating disorder may gain a significant amount weight. They will find dirty dishes and notice that food is missing, and they may not have an appetite in the morning.


People who have weight issues, who are on strict diets, or who suffer from anorexia may develop nocturnal eating disorder. It can be caused by hormonal fluctuations, stress and certain medications.

Standard Treatments

People with nocturnal eating disorder are treated with sleep studies, medication and counseling. Doctors usually investigate and treat the underlying causes of this disorder, recommending alterations in sleep habits and diets.


Nocturnal eating disorder is not life-threatening, but because the person is not awake, sleep eating can lead to injury. Sleep eaters can choke while eating or fall and injure themselves.

Quality Of Life

Nocturnal eating causes weight gain. This affects the overall health and fitness of the person with the condition. A person who suffers from nocturnal eating may also experience anxiety, social isolation and stress due to body image and social pressure. Nocturnal eating disorder also affects sleep quality.


Removing food from your home or locking it up can help to control what you eat while you are sleeping. However, it will not address the urge to eat while sleeping that is caused by nocturnal eating disorder.

Have you ever suffered from nocturnal eating disorder? What advice worked for you?