(NaturalNews) As many as one in a thousand adults may binge eat in their sleep, according to an article in the New York Times.
More than 10 percent of adults suffer from a class of conditions known as parasomnia, or sleep disorders, the article notes. In addition to the more commonly known behaviors such as sleepwalking, parasomnia may also include violence, sexual behavior or other waking behaviors such as driving. In 1 percent of cases, it involves sleep eating.
Most sleep eaters are women, while most of those who engage in violence while sleeping are men. Yet frightening, bizarre or even dangerous as these behaviors may be, psychologists insist that they do not necessarily betray mental instability.
"Those who exhibit violence during sleep, or scream, or swear, or masturbate, or eat frozen ravioli, or wander into the hallway in their underwear while asleep generally have no more of a psychological disorder than those who sleep peacefully every night," writes Carlos H. Schenck of the University of Minnesota in his book Sleep: The Mysteries, the Problems and the Solutions.
Some researchers believe, however, that sleep eating is more common among those who suffer from waking eating disorders.
In cases of sleep eating, sufferers rise from their beds while still sleeping and "make a beeline for the kitchen," said John W. Winkelman, medical director of the Sleep Health Center at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Brighton, Mass. They tend to binge on sugary and high-calorie foods, and may also put together odd food combinations such as peanut butter and pasta. Sometimes they even eat inedible or dangerous substances, such as paper or nail polish.
A sleep eater may rise to binge as many as five times a night, Winkelman said.
In addition to being embarrassing or frightening, sleep eating can also be dangerous. Sufferers have been known to cut themselves on knives, walk into obstacles or even damage their teeth by chewing on frozen foods.