Healthwise: Sleep Eating

By: Stephanie Satchell Email
By: Stephanie Satchell Email

July 27, 2011

When we go to bed most of us expect to stay there until morning, but for two percent of people in Charlottesville, that's not the case. They get up and eat.

“It's similar to sleep walking where an individual will get up during the night and go to the kitchen. They will eat things and get back in the bed, usually leaving a pretty big mess when they're done," said Dr. Christopher Winter, Director of the Martha Jefferson Sleep Medicine Center.

Sleep eating is a sleep disorder. It's often seen in people who have other complications such as sleep apnea or breathing disturbances. When sleep eaters wake up the next morning, they're just as confused as to who actually got up and did the eating.

“Usually with sleep related eating disorders you can find something that's causing the individual to eat, but not always,” said Dr. Winter.

People with this condition aren't always raiding the fridge. They've been known to feast on some interesting items.

“They can eat anything. Sometimes what they're eating isn't technically food - maybe eating pet food or cigarettes,” Dr. Winter explained.

Now there's help for sleep eaters in Charlottesville. The Martha Jefferson Sleep Medicine Center is hosting what they're calling a pajama party. It's a support group for people with sleep disorders; the topic for the August 3 meeting is sleep eating.

“It's great because they are there with other people who are suffering the same thing or have the same question or same problems with their treatment,” said Tabatha Greene, Lead Technician at the Sleep Medicine Center.

In the past, the sleep center has focused on a wide range of topics at meetings, but never sleep eating. That's why this meeting is so different.

“I think what's unique about it is we keep it very low-key and close-knit oriented to our patients. We listen to them and want it to be relaxing and have a good time,” said Greene.

Martha Jefferson sleep specialists are hoping that this pajama party support group will help patients treat and manage their sleep eating all while getting a good night's rest.

The pajama party will be August 3rd from 6:30 to 8 pm. at the Martha Jefferson Outpatient Care center on Pantops.

The meeting may be called a pajama party, but it's just a name. You don't have to wear pj's to the meeting.

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