People with a sleep-related eating disorder have frequent episodes of compulsive eating while sleepwalking during the night. The person has impaired consciousness while preparing food and eating it, with little or no memory of these actions the next morning.

A sleep-related eating disorder can cause dangerous use of kitchen appliances or injury from eating something toxic. Typically the person eats high-carbohydrate and high-fat foods during the episode but may also eat bizarre items, such as coffee grounds, frozen food or cigarette butts. This disorder can lead to problems such as weight gain, poor diabetes control or dental cavities.

Sleep-related eating disorder is more common in women and typically starts when people are in their 20s. It often occurs in people who have restless legs syndrome and may be a related condition. Sleep-related eating disorder may also be linked to other sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea, and it can be a side effect of short-acting sleep medications, such as zolpidem (Ambien, Edluar, Zolpimist).

  • Expertise and experience. Mayo Clinic doctors have extensive experience treating sleep-related eating disorder and other disruptive sleep-related disorders (parasomnias). One of the earliest reports about this condition and its association with sleeping pills came from Mayo Clinic.
  • Team approach. Your multispecialty team of experts in sleep disorders may include psychiatrists, neurologists, pulmonologists, pediatricians, psychologists or other specialists, if needed.

At Mayo Clinic, we assemble a team of specialists who take the time to listen and thoroughly understand your health issues and concerns. We tailor the care you receive to your personal health care needs. You can trust our specialists to collaborate and offer you the best possible outcomes, safety and service.

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At Mayo Clinic in Arizona, specialists at the Sleep Disorders Center, located at Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix, diagnose and treat sleep disorders in adults. Your treatment team may include specialists in pulmonary medicine, neurology, psychiatry and psychology, and other specialty areas, if needed.

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 800-446-2279 (toll-free) 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mountain Standard Time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

At Mayo Clinic in Florida, specialists in the Sleep Disorders Center diagnose and treat sleep disorders in adults. Your treatment team may include specialists in pulmonary medicine, neurology, psychiatry and psychology, and other specialty areas, if needed.

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 904-953-0853 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

At Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, adults and children with sleep disorders are treated at the Center for Sleep Medicine, one of the largest facilities of its kind in the U.S. Your treatment team may include specialists in pulmonary medicine, neurology, psychiatry and psychology, and other specialty areas, such as pediatrics, if needed.

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 507-538-3270 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Central time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

See information on patient services at the three Mayo Clinic locations, including transportation options and lodging.

Your doctor will ask questions about your medical history to rule out possible underlying causes of a sleep-related eating disorder. Certain medications, for instance, for insomnia or depression, can cause a sleep-related eating disorder.

Your doctor will likely also recommend a video-recorded sleep study called polysomnography — a painless assessment. Through sensors on your scalp, temples, chest and legs, a computer records your brain waves, the oxygen level in your blood, your heart rate and breathing, as well as eye and leg movements during the study.

At Mayo Clinic, specialists experienced in sleep-related eating disorders can treat you at a sleep center. Mayo's integrated approach allows doctors to quickly assemble a group of specialists to address all your sleep medicine needs.

Your treatment may include:

  • Environmental changes. This may mean, for example, making your sleep area and kitchen safer.
  • Medication. This may involve changing current medications or prescribing medication to reduce the incidence of the sleep-related eating disorder.
  • Diagnosing and treating other sleep disorders. Often associated with other sleep disorders, such as restless legs syndrome or obstructive sleep apnea, a sleep-related eating disorder may be reduced by treating related disorders.

Mayo Clinic doctors were the first to publish a report on the link between the insomnia drug zolpidem (Ambien) and sleep-related eating disorders. They continue research on a range of disruptive sleep-related disorders.

Publications

See a list of publications by Mayo Clinic doctors on sleep-related eating disorder on PubMed, a service of the National Library of Medicine.

Apr. 15, 2014