British mother-of-three Lesley Cusack consumes all manner of food at night -- and she's completely unaware of what she is doing.
The 55 year-old divorcee who lives alone in Warrington, Cheshire, England has been known to eat up to 2,500 calories worth of food a night -- including chops, soup, eggs and bacon, cheese sandwiches, and also junk food like candy bars -- all while sleep walking.
"The worst things that I know I’ve eaten are emulsion paint, Vaseline, cough syrup, raw potatoes and soap powder," Cusack tells the Daily Mail. "The night I ate paint was the only time I’ve ever woken up. I can still remember standing in the kitchen touching my mouth and being very confused."
She believes she has a rare medical condition, known as nocturnal sleep-related eating disorder, that affects about 1-3 per cent of the general population, but has not confirmed her self-diagnosis with a doctor yet.
"I can only tell by the remains in the morning," says Cusack, who examines her kitchen every morning for clues as to what she's eaten the night before.
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"A proportion of adult sleep-walkers will eat and even cook during apparent sleep, often consuming foods they would not normally enjoy," neurologist Paul Reading of the British Sleep Society explains to the Daily Mail. "Weight gain and guilt are common consequences."
Cusack claims she has even hurt herself while trying to cook in her altered state, breaking some of her teeth and bruising herself in the dark.
"There were times when I felt extremely depressed through trying to hide it."
The incident that pushed her to seek help was when she went out outside to raid the freezer in her shed.
"There have got to be more people struggling with this condition. I can’t be the only person," she says.
And indeed Cusack isn't. An unidentified woman in an eating disorder forum posted the following inquiry seeking help.
"When I woke up this morning, there were candy bar wrappers all over the kitchen, and I had a stomach ache. I had chocolate on my face and hands. My husband says I was up eating last night, but I have no memories of doing so. Could he be playing a joke on me?"
Naturally, the response was that she probably had a sleep-related eating disorder.
In 2006, a New York Times article reported that the sleeping pill Ambien may be linked to sleep-related eating disorders, with reports of drug users who "claw through their refrigerators like animals and consume calories ranging into the thousands."