Student Discovers a Disorder That Made Her Eat in Sleep
Philosophy and World Religion student Kate Archibald says now she knows why she’s been putting on weight. A student who couldn’t understand why she was piling on the pounds discovered she had a hidden medical disorder that left her eating in her sleep.
Most nights Kate Archibald gets up from bed and sleep-walks into the kitchen where she grabs armfuls of any food she can find. She then takes it back to bed and eats it without realizing. In the morning, the 20-year-old wakes up feeling full – with up to dozens of wrappers stuffed behind her bed.
At the end of her first year at university, the Philosophy and World Religion student had ballooned from a size 10 to a large size 16, and was constantly at war with her flatmates over food going missing.
She has now been diagnosed with Nocturnal Eating Disorder – a rare side effect of ADHD medication that means her body craves sustenance in the middle of the night. Miss Archibald, now in her third year at the University of Aberdeen, said: “I had absolutely no idea why I was putting on weight.
I used to get in massive rows with my flatmates about all this food that was going missing – I was adamant I hadn’t eaten anything. “It was only when I woke up one morning surrounded by chocolate bar wrappers that I realized I must have been sleep-eating.”
Speaking to student newspaper The Tab, Miss Archibald said: “I used to have to take Adderall for ADHD – one of the side effects is that it completely suppresses your appetite.” When I was at boarding school, we had our tuck box at the bottom of our beds, and I would wake up when the medication wore off and feel ravenous, so I’d eat as much as I could.
“But when I got older, I stopped needing the medication as often, and because I didn’t have any food in my university room, I didn’t think that I was waking up hungry anymore.” When the penny finally dropped that I was a sleep eater, I had stayed round a friend’s house and in the morning there was a completely empty selection box – and the bed was filled with wrappers.”
During her midnight feasts, Miss Archibald munches on thousands of calories worth of fatty snacks, including crisps, chocolate bars and nuts – despite hating the taste of them. She said: “I’m a bit allergic to peanuts – they make my face swell a bit – so I always avoid them.” But there have been some mornings where I’ve woken up and my whole face had ballooned, so I must have eaten them in the night.
“One of my housemates had been given a big bar of Galaxy by her boyfriend as a treat – but I managed to eat it and wake up the next morning with my face covered in chocolate.” We laugh about it now, but I still have to regularly go to the shop to replace my flatmates’ food.
“The weirdest thing I’ve ever eaten in a night is an entire wheel of cheddar cheese.” As well as snack food, sleep-walking Miss Archibald has managed to munch her way through four portions of spaghetti bolognaise in a night and even make toast. She said: “It isn’t really seen as an eating disorder; apparently it’s more of a parasomnia.
“Basically, my body is conditioned to be hungry in the night and want food – even if I don’t.” It’s sleep-walking, rather than an actual eating disorder. “I’ve started locking myself in my room now, with lots of healthy snacks – but I still manage to get out and raid the fridge.” My flatmates think I’m mad, but I’m always apologetic so they don’t mind too much.
“Nobody has called me ‘Freddy Kruncher’ yet, or make references to the ‘Nightmare on Elmlea Street’.” I try and combat all the food I eat by going to the gym as much as possible.” Flatmates Ellie Harding and Ashleigh Black have to try and convince Miss Archibald to not eat their food, but reckon they are fighting a losing battle.
Miss Harding said: “If there’s anything that we don’t want her to eat we have to tell her.” We just have to hope that her subconscious is listening and that she doesn’t eat our good food.” The funny thing is that she’s forever going to Tesco in the morning to replace what she’s ate of ours. “The ultimate fear is that she’ll cook something during one of her episodes. We don’t want her burning the flat down.”
Miss Archibald, who reckons she sleep eats about three nights a week, added: “I’ve never actually been caught in the act, but most nights I sleep naked, so that’s probably a blessing.”