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Middle-Of-The-Night Food Cravings: Are You A Serial Snacker?

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(Photo by VANDERLEI ALMEIDA/AFP/GettyImages)

(Photo by VANDERLEI ALMEIDA/AFP/GettyImages)

(CBS Radio) — It’s in the middle of the night and you hop out of bed and head towards…uh, the refrigerator?

Serial snacking can be a serious problem, as people tend to indulge in this type of behavior unknowingly.

Often times, the serial snacker, medically known as the “sleep eater,” either doesn’t remember their middle-of-the-night snack binge, or they don’t remember what they snacked on. Either can lead to consuming additional calories, which can lead to weight gain.

Sleep eating is considered a sleep disorder, although many specialists argue that it is actually a combination of a sleep disorder and an eating disorder.

Why Does Sleep Eating Occur?

Sleep eaters are usually unaware of their condition. While they may find clues in their kitchen regarding their disorder, sleep eating often goes undiagnosed.

Sleep eating is a rare form of sleep walking. Research has indicated that there is a genetic link to sleep eating. Additionally, sleep eating can also be triggered by a stressful situation. The behavior can also be the result of an underlying problem, such as another medical condition or from dieting.

How is Sleep Eating Treated?

Most doctor’s will recommend that the sleep eating sufferer attend stress management courses, and seek counseling. Other doctors might recommend hypnosis, as being in a hypnotic state may reveal an underlying issue.  Additionally,  changes in a person’s diet, such as avoiding certain foods or eating at scheduled times throughout the day, may curb late night sleep bingeing.

If You’re A Night Eater…

Don’t panic…your behavior may be somewhat normal. There is a similar sleep-related eating disorder called nocturnal eating, or night eating syndrome. During night eating syndrome, the person is awake during their bingeing episode.  Moreover, the person is unable to sleep until they have eaten food.

Most people who are affected by night eating often avoid eating during the day, or they eat small meals throughout the day. Then, as the day turns to night, they often get anxious and cannot sleep, or sleep poorly until they have indulged in binge eating.

Night eating may be the result of a medical condition or hypoglycemia, so it is best to make an appointment with your doctor if you are a frequent night eater.

Sleep eating and night eating can be reduced with behavior modification, stress management, and the treatment of underlying medical conditions.

-Nichole Jaworski, CBS Radio

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