Nocturnal Eating Disorder - Sleep or Eating Disorder?
Orna Tzischinski, Yael Lazer
Sleep Laboratory, Faculty of Medicine and Israel Institute of Technology; and Eating Disorders Clinic, Psychiatric Division, Rambam Medical Center, Haifa
Nocturnal eating disorder (NED) is a rare syndrome that includes disorders of both eating and sleeping. It is characterized by awakening in the middle of the night, getting out of bed, and consuming large quantities of food quickly and uncontrollably, then returning to sleep. This may occur several times during the night. Some patients are fully conscious during their nocturnal eating, while some indicate total amnesia. The etiology of NED is still unclear, as research findings are contradictory.
Those suffering from NED exhibit various levels of anxiety and depression, and many lead stressful life-styles. Familial conflict, loneliness and personal crises are commonly found. Recently, a connection has been discovered between NED and unclear self-definition, faulty interpersonal communication, and low frustration threshold. Several authors link it to sleepwalking, leg movements during sleep, and sleep apnea. Treatment is still unclear and there have been trials of pharmacotherapy, psychotherapy, or a combination of both. However, pharmacological treatment has generally been found to be the most effective, although each case must be considered individually.
In 1998, 7 women referred to our Eating Disorders Clinic, 5% of all referrals, were subsequently diagnosed as suffering from NED. Of these, 3 suffered from concurrent binge-eating disorder and 4 also from bulimia nervosa. 2 case studies representative of NED are presented.