Spring 2003
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TCU Magazine "Academe"

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Midnight malady

A TCU nursing professor sheds light on those who eat in their sleep.

By Amanda Hosey '03

Though her full-time post is professor of nursing, Lea Montgomery has received numerous calls and e-mails from concerned "patients" lately.

People who suffer from a widely misunderstood condition called nocturnal sleep-related eating disorder (NSRED) have been contacting Montgomery for advice since recent media exposure brought attention to the disorder, which may affect as many as four million Americans.

"Those who have NSRED sleepwalk and sleep-eat, and they usually have no memory or awareness of doing so," says Montgomery, who did extensive research for an article on the disorder that appeared in RN, a publication for nurses.

NSRED sufferers often have unexplainable weight gain, chronic fatigue and lack of morning appetite. Since they normally cannot give a specific reason for their symptoms, "patients are often told that their problem is 'not real.' They may become discouraged, ashamed and hopeless as a result. They are thrilled to talk to someone who acknowledges the disorder as a serious problem," Montgomery says.

The RN article has been widely acclaimed. Media outlets throughout the United States and Canada have credited Montgomery with bringing attention to an overlooked illness.

"I've got a huge stack of e-mails from people with NSRED who have seen the articles," she says. "While I can't diagnose or treat them, I can encourage them and pass on more detailed information."

Since the causes of NSRED are still largely unknown, the disorder is treated in a variety of ways. Common suggestions are a balanced diet, stress reduction and what Montgomery calls "good sleep hygiene -- getting enough sleep É and going to bed around the same time each night."

Montgomery hopes the attention from the press will bring about increased legitimacy of NSRED.

"Hopefully, increased awareness will result in more directed efforts to treat and cure the disorder," she says.

Contact Montgomery at l.montgomery@tcu.edu.