Sleep-related eating disorder

Article section 1 of 14.  Next

By Federica Provini MD and Elena Antelmi MD

Sleep-related eating disorder is also known as or subsumes Nocturnal binge eating. -ed.

Dr. Provini and Dr. Antelmi of the University of Bolonga review the clinical features of sleep-related eating disorder and highlight the problem of differential diagnosis with nocturnal eating syndromes. Sleep-related eating disorder is now classified within the parasomnias and best conceptualized as a disorder of arousal, whereas nocturnal eating syndrome has been characterized as a circadian delay of food intake with normal circadian timing of sleep onset. The level of consciousness during episodes of nocturnal eating, almost impaired in sleep-related eating disorder and spared in night eating syndrome, is considered the main difference between the two disorders. Associated with psychotropic medications and with restless legs syndrome, narcolepsy, sleepwalking, or other parasomnias, nocturnal eating disorders may be amenable to treatment with dopaminergic agents, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or topiramate.

Key Points

  • Nighttime eating has been conceptualized as either nocturnal eating syndrome or sleep-related eating disorder.
  • Sleep-related eating disorder is a syndrome of nocturnal sleepwalking associated with compulsive eating behavior, occurring with variable degrees of consciousness impairment.
  • Sleep-related eating is compulsive, associated with no feelings of hunger, and with ingestion of often inedible or sloppy food preparations.
  • Hazards may occur during sleep-related eating behavior, such as burns, lacerations, or fires, and may adversely impact health (leading to obesity and dental decay).
  • Sleep-related eating disorder is often associated with other sleep disorders and parasomnias, such as sleepwalking, narcolepsy, or restless legs syndrome, and with the use of medications, in particular hypnotic drugs such as zolpidem.
  • Nocturnal eating syndrome is characterized by wakeful eating after the last meal and prior to final awakening.