Waking up, I ran my tongue around my mouth and recoiled. I’d had morning breath before but this was gross.
My teeth felt sticky, like I’d gone to bed after dinner without brushing them.
Weird, I thought.
At 16 years old, I was living at home with my parents, Helen and Steve, and my two sisters, Danni, 14, and Holly, 10.
That same morning, Mum scolded us.
‘One of you left the kitchen light on last night,’ she said.
All three of us denied being the culprit. Then one day, I was cleaning my room when I reached under the bed. My fingers touched something hard so I pulled it out.
‘Ewww!’ I cried.
It was a stale piece of bread.
How did that get there? I thought, disgusted.
Throwing it in the bin, I suddenly got a flashback to something strange. Me, in the kitchen, helping myself to a few slices. The thing was, I’d been asleep at the time!
It was all coming back to me...
I’ve sleepwalked since I was a kid, but on that occasion I’d taken the food back to my room to snack on in my slumber.
I must’ve dropped some, I realised.
It explained the funny flavour in my mouth and the kitchen light being left on too!
A couple of days later, I woke up and smacked my lips together. I could taste oats. Peering in the kitchen bin, there was the evidence – two muesli bar wrappers.
It nudged another nocturnal memory. Without waking anybody, I’d crept downstairs and raided the cupboards.
‘This is going to sound really weird,’ I said to Mum. ‘But I think I eat in my sleep.’
She burst out laughing.
‘I thought we were getting through a lot of food,’ she chuckled.
As I explained more about my midnight munchies, Mum looked serious.
‘What if you hurt yourself, Bec?’ she said.
‘I haven’t so far,’ I replied.
Besides, my eyes were always open, like a zombie. Soon I was eating in my sleep four times a week. At times I knew what was happening as I was doing it.
But other times, I had no idea until I saw the proof in the bin or had foul breath in the morning.
I would devour anything delicious I could get my hands on. One night I gorged on six muesli bars in a sitting.
On another occasion, I made three trips downstairs and polished off 20 chocolate biscuits.
‘They were meant for Holly’s lunches,’ Mum said.
‘I can’t help it,’ I laughed. ‘You’ll have to hide it or I’ll eat it.’
So Mum started stashing all Holly’s favourite foods in her bedroom. If something needed refrigerating, she’d stick a note on it: Do not touch.
I’d see the warning in the day, and subconsciously I’d know to leave it alone at night. Still, I never went back to bed empty-handed and eventually, my nap nibbling took its toll.
Pulling on a pair of jeans one day, I had to breathe in to do up the button. I looked in the mirror and realised I’d put on a few kilos around my hips and thighs.
I’d always enjoyed working out, but now I stepped up my training to cancel out the calories I consumed during the night.
In July last year, I set off to travel Europe for three months. Funnily enough, I didn’t have one case of snooze snacking the whole time I was there.
Back home, I told Mum.
‘The food shopping bill was a lot less while you were gone,’ she teased.
I’ve been eating in my sleep for four years now and never heard of it happening to anyone else.
So this May, I looked it up on the internet. I couldn’t believe it when I discovered it’s a real condition – nocturnal sleep-related eating disorder (NS-RED).
I read that sufferers eat almost entirely unconsciously, often preferring food high in sugar.
It could be dangerous too. Some people have injured themselves while preparing hot dishes or chopping ingredients.
But thankfully I stick to ready-made foods!
I’m currently single so I haven’t had to warn any men about my midnight meals, but my friends think it’s hilarious.
Hopefully one day my sleepy self will stop the midnight kitchen visits so I can slumber in peace!
Bec isn't the only one to keep busy in her sleep...
A little night music
Classical music enthusiast Harry Rosenthal had been a lifelong sleepwalker. But when his wife Naidene woke to strange noises, she found him sitting upright conducting an orchestra and even imitating the instruments!
While Rosenthal had no memory of the event, Naidene called their kids in to see and taped him!
A 44-year-old woman was clearly in a sociable mood when she logged onto her computer mid-sleep and emailed party invitations to her friends.
One read: Dinner and drinks, 4pm. Bring wine and caviar only.
London police were called to a worksite where passers-by had spotted a 15-year-old girl dangling from a crane 40 metres in the air.
A rescue worker climbed to reach her, only to find she was completely asleep and had no idea how she got there!
This story was originally published in that's life! Issue 24, 9 June 2016