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"I wake up in the middle of the night and my bed is filled with food I don't remember eating."

Sarah Carter*, 34, would wake up in a bed full of cake.

She would have no memory of eating and yet be surrounded by evidence that said otherwise. Sarah, like many others, suffers from sleep-related eating disorder (SRED).

“I would wake up with cake in the bed, cereal, bread, peanut butter,” she said.

Sleep-related eating disorder is a parasomnia (category of sleep disorder) where individuals will help themselves to food before waking up with little to no recollection of doing so. Foods chosen by sufferers can range from smoothies to buttered cigarettes.

Sarah described how her episodes occurred during periods where she was dieting.

“It used to happen every time I would be on a very calorie restrictive diet,” she said.

It is uncommon for sufferers to remember their episodes. (Source: iStock.)
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Individuals who suffer from SRED are more common than you think. One study suggested it affected nearly five percent of the general population, and around nine to 17 percent of those suffering from an eating disorder.

The cause of the disorder remains unknown.

Sarah became so desperate to stop her behaviour, she resorted to applying duct tape to her fridge.

"I only did it once, and that worked, oddly. Like, it woke me up," she said.

Injuries from sleep-eating are common. It has been reported that sufferers have woken up with cuts from knives and dental issues from trying to eat frozen food.

An online account shared how a sufferer had been jolted from their sleep after she burnt her hand making a grilled cheese sandwich.

Injuries preparing food are surprisingly common.(Source: IStock.)

Joshua Britt, 23, is another sleep-eater who would wake up to find his sheets smeared with food.

He described one episode where he woke up to his mother screaming. She believed he was sleeping in a pool of blood. It was chocolate.

"When I was a teen, my nan would bring over chocolate all the time. I would sleepwalk to the kitchen and bring it back to bed to eat it," he said.

Joshua, unlike Sarah, also suffered from episodes of sleepwalking.

"I also have woken up having a shower before," he said.

Interested in all things sleep? Hear about how one mum's life changed after sleep school.

There is evidence SRED could be genetic, with one case citing how a sufferer's twin sister and father were also affected.

Treatment for SRED is said to lay in a combination of medication and behavioural therapy. One anti-epilpetic drug, Topiramate, was found to be quite effective in its small trial.

SRED is similar to another disorder called Night Eating Syndrome (NES). Sufferers of NES feel a compulsion to eat comparatively large amounts of food at night and often after dinner.

NES is categorised as an eating disorder, rather than a parasomnia, even though individuals often experience disrupted sleep.

Have you ever woken up to find you have eaten something? Share your story in the comment section below. 

*Name changed to protect identity.

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