Monday, October 10

Narcolepsy and Binge Eating

To look at him, you'd never know that my husband frequently binge eats.
Before his diagnosis, I just couldn't figure it out. If there was any kind of sweet or junk food in the house, it disappeared overnight. Cookies, doughnuts, chips, pie... the only evidence that there had even been a snack of some kind would be smears of icing or trails of crumbs. It drove me nuts! When questioned, my husband would admit - with embarrassment - that he had eaten all of the sweets, typically at 3 in the morning. 

Most recently, he devoured an apple pie overnight. The next week, he demolished the cake I had just baked that day. Finally, I thought... What's the deal?!
In reading a diet/health book a few years ago, I first learned the word ghrelin. In brief - ghrelin stimulates appetite. It's the little beast that growls and complains until we feed it. Unfortunately, when you don't get enough sleep, ghrelin is kicked into overdrive, making you feel even hungrier than normal. This is partly why doctors strongly advise getting more sleep when one is trying to lose weight.
When I did a little research and put two and two together... bingo! Well no wonder my husband pigs out in the wee hours of the morning - his sleep-deprived brain is telling him to! Crazy, right? It made total sense, though. It also made me wonder just how many narcoleptics overeat or constantly crave carbs and sugar... So now I know that something needs to be added to our action plan. Sure, I can keep junk food in the house for him, but what about his arteries? Skin? Cavities?
Maybe we can keep a treadmill and Listerine next to the Poptarts.


  1. I'd like to let you know your hubby is not alone. Sleep eating/binge eating/not eating is a problem for so many of us with N. It's a hard thing to fix since it requires you to get sleep. However, during the daytime hours you can do things to keep it in check. Try and eleminate simple carbs as much as possible. Go with wheat when you can. And keep lots of healthy snack food...Quaker rice snacks, carrots, etc. It's hard because when we get sleepy our brain screams for sugar or simple carbs because they provide quick energy. But you have to train yourself to avoid that at all cost.


  2. Thanks Bri!
    The wheat is a great idea since it also fills you up faster. We'll definitely have to try that.

  3. Thats funny, i have the opposite recommendation from Bri, but everyone's a little different. I used to binge eat two xlarge Hungry Howies Pizzas and a Party bag ofReese Pieces (24+ oz). Later i got into eating an entire Pizzeria Unos pizza myself and having a large Friendlies Sunday. And the worst part is, i would only stop eating because I couldnt fitany more in my stomach - I would still be ravenously hungry!

    I finally realized I probably had food intolerances (I found outI was lactose intolerant) and went on a challenge diet. I started on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet over 3 years ago and haven't knowingly broken it since. The only carbs I eat are, monosaccerides, so no starch, grain, milk, table sugar, etc. My only sweetener is honey.

    The Grhelin problem is probably made worse by a sleep deprivation screwing up the digestive system. What I mean is that its likely that a lot of narcolepts dont make the right amounts of digestive enzyme and that the hypocretin deficiency, which also causes apnea for a lot of us, likely also causes problems with digestive motility.

    I say do whatever works, but you might want to look at a challenge diet that cuts out potential problem foods. Mine's worked very well for me - I quickly lost 40lbs and might binge eat twice a year.

    1. That's interesting and helpful info Severian, thanks! Losing 40lbs is a wonderful accomplishment - great job!

  4. My husband has lost over 30 lbs. during last two years since he adjusted his diet. He was pre-diabetic. I am vegetarian and he is very selective (lactose intolerant, organic, etc.). He knew he was not supposed to eat simple carbs (he loves pancakes!) and opposed to whole grain products in his diet, but tried and he admits he's fine with eating whole grain pasta, brown rice, rolled oats. He's blood sugar is fine. We eat junk food but only on weekends and prepared by us at home. Also, I give him chromium to keep his blood sugar in balance, especially when he knows he's going to indulge in sweets...

    1. Great tips - I really like the idea of limiting junk food to certain days. Thanks for your input!