A recent article in the New York Times described the rare, but worrying ‘sleep eating disorder’ â€“ when you not only sleep walk but sleep eat, raiding the fridge or freezer for anything it contains. And you can do it up to five times in a night! Like sleep walking, sleep eating is not thought to be connected to any psychiatric or mental disorder but can result not only in weight gain but in cuts from a knife used to cut up the food, bruising from bumping into fridge doors and dental problems from gnawing on frozen food. It is thought that sleep eating may be more common among those with an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia, but may be totally unrelated.
Drugs seem to be of only moderate help, not always solving the problem and often leaving sufferers feeling dopy the next day. The condition often seems to go hand in hand with restless leg syndrome â€“ a desperately frustrating condition in which you suffer from uncontrollable urges to move your legs when you try to go to sleep. Although drugs are often used to try to control restless legs, they seem of little help there either and one wonders whether an alternative approach might not work better. Certainly one sufferer I knew was advised by a Chinese medicine practitioner, treating her for something entirely different, to stop drinking tea as for her, it was a strong stimulant. As soon as she did, her restless legs syndrome disappeared.
Some hilarity has also been caused recently by the appearance of Orthorexia Nervosa, or a fixation about healthy eating. ‘We wish’ is the general response and mental health experts and ‘big pharma’ are accused of inventing another ‘syndrome’ for which they can pump us full of psychotropic drugs.
But ‘obsessive compulsive disorder’ or OCD is a very genuine, and very distressing, condition and people’s obsession can as easily be fixated on something intrinsically good (healthy eating) as bad something bad (there are rats living in your wardrobe). The National Centre for Eating Disorders sees orthorexia as a very similar condition to anorexia and blames modern society which, they feel, has ‘lost its way with food’ and so feels permanently anxious about its relationship with eating.
Here again, drug treatments appear to have little success – but genuine dietary manipulation often does. The US charity the Â Association for Comprehensive NeuroTherapy explores non-drug based, often nutritional, approaches to anxiety, autism, ADHD, depression, OCD, tics and Tourette syndrome, and reports on some amazing cases in which very serious conditions have been almost entirely resolved as a result of identifying food or chemical allergies and/or making nutritional interventions – five-year-old Cole’s eye tics for example.
The Association has an excellent newsletter, Latitudes, from which we often Â quote in Foods Matter. If anyone is interested in this area I would certainly suggest they took a look.