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Seen At 11: Surprisingly Common Disorder Could Make You Gain Weight In Your Sleep

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Can sleeping soundly at night lead to unexpected weight gain? It did for one man.

As CBS2's Kristine Johnson explained, 'sleep pounds' are not as uncommon as you might think.

"Always been a pretty good sleeper. Even as a boy no issues really at all," said Jason Carney.

But that all changed several years ago. Carney was struggling with a demanding job, he was putting on weight, and decided to make some adjustments in his life.

He and his family moved, he started to diet, tracked calories on his phone, and quit smoking.

"But I wasn't losing any weight at all," he said.

The reason why was right in front of him.

"I would wake up the next morning and see food wrappers in the kitchen," he said.

His FitBit indicated he'd been up as many as 6 or 7 times -- eating in his sleep.

"In the morning I would have wrappers here, here, and here," he said.

It went on for years as Carney tried to control it himself with sleep aids and vitamins. He even installed motion alarms, but would disarm them in his sleep.

"Crackers, chips, Clif Bars were a big deal for me," he recalled.

Carney did some of his own research online, but eventually went to a sleep disorders center.

Dr. Ranji Varghese diagnosed Carney with a sleep-related eating disorder, that he said was related to his years as a smoker.

Dr. Varghese said for a significant number of patients like Carney, the nicotine cravings are still so strong they can act as a trigger.

Often, patients with the disorder will be so out of it, they'll eat things like raw bacon or butter to satisfy their hunger.

"They're not awake. Their brain is still sleeping. They're just engaging in these complex behaviors. They'll eat these unusual foods, go back to bed, and have no recall," Dr. Varghese said.

Once they identified the problem, Carney was successfully treated with anti-depressants. He's dropped about 15-lbs so far, and went from waking up 6 or 7 times a night to maybe once.

"Like flipping a switch. It was unreal," he said.

Experts said medications aren't always necessary to try to treat a sleep eating disorder. Sometimes having better sleep hygiene can help -- a sleep schedule, and less computer or cell phone use are great ways to start.

Always check with a doctor before trying to treat yourself.


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