Night Eating Syndrome is a form of compulsive eating. Sufferers eat a lot at bedtime and often get up during the night to eat. The food that is consumed may be quite unusual and is often high in calories. Leftovers in the fridge may be eaten. Entire desserts may be eaten. Odd concoctions may also be prepared, including salt or sugar sandwiches, flour, and other inedible substances. The food is eaten quickly, and the binge episodes typically last less than 10 minutes. The episodes typically occur nightly but may occur more than once during the night. The next morning after binging a person will feel full and have a poor appetite. There is typically no or only partial memory of the night’s events, but they may wake to discover the kitchen is a mess. Not only can this binging behavior lead to unwanted weight gain, it may also be significantly disruptive to sleep.
Night eating syndrome affects an estimated 1.5% of the population, and is equally common in men and women, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Night eating syndrome is not the same as binge eating disorder, although individuals with night eating syndrome are often binge eaters. It differs from binge eating in that the amount of food consumed in the evening/night is not necessarily objectively large nor is a loss of control over food intake required.
Medical Impact of Night Eating Syndrome
Individuals with night eating syndrome are often obese or overweight, which makes them susceptible to health problems caused by being overweight, including high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol. Those who are obese increase their risk of heart diseases, many types of cancer and gallbladder disease.
Individuals with night eating syndrome often have a history of substance abuse, and may also suffer from depression. They typically report being more depressed at night. They also frequently have sleep disorders.
Many people find themselves eating late at night, even when they aren’t hungry.
Nighttime eating can cause you to eat more calories than you need and lead to weight gain.
Sign and Symptoms
• The person has little or no appetite for breakfast. Delays first meal for several hours after waking up. He or she is not hungry or is upset about how much was eaten the night before.
• Eats more food after dinner than during that meal.
• Eats more than half of daily food intake during and after dinner but before breakfast. May leave the bed to snack at night.
• This pattern has persisted for at least two months.
• Person feels tense, anxious, upset, or guilty while eating.
• NES is thought to be stress related and is often accompanied by depression. Especially at night theperson may be moody, tense, anxious, nervous, agitated, etc.
• Has trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Wakes frequently and then often eats.
• Foods ingested are often carbohydrates: sugary and starch.
• Behavior is not like binge eating, which is done in relatively short periods. Night eating syndrome involves continual eating throughout evening hours.
• This eating produces guilt and shame, not enjoyment.