Do you ever find yourself getting out of bed at night to get food from the fridge because you can’t sleep? Do you wonder how to stop food cravings at night?
Do you feel ashamed or guilty about eating at night?
During the day, do you eat a little or only healthy food, but then eat a lot at night when no one is watching?
Lately, more and more people are having trouble with eating at night, which is sometimes called night eating disorder or NES eating disorder. Like many eating problems, it’s like a cycle of trying to solve the problem but not succeeding, which can make you feel bad and eat even more.
This can affect how you feel about yourself and cause problems like gaining weight, not sleeping well, feeling tired, and not being healthy. So, how can we really stop food cravings at night?
Today, I’m going to explain what night eating syndrome is, what causes it, and who might be most affected by it. I’ll also talk about some of the signs and offer ideas to help you if you’re struggling with NES eating disorder.
What is Night Eating Syndrome?
Night eating syndrome is when people have a hard time controlling their eating habits at night, sort of like binge eating. But it’s not always about eating a huge amount of food.
This happens when your body’s schedule for eating is all mixed up. People with this syndrome eat most of their food in the evening and not much during the day.
What Causes Eating at Night?
People with night-eating syndrome might be overweight or obese, and they might feel the same kind of shame and secrecy as people with other eating issues. They might eat really quickly and choose foods that have lots of calories.
Some common reasons for this are stress, feeling sad (depression), having trouble sleeping, and having gone through something tough (trauma).
Sometimes, the body doesn’t make enough of a special chemical called melatonin at night, which can make it hard to sleep deeply. Stress and cortisol problems can cause this.
Other chemicals in the body, like leptin and ghrelin, can make you want to eat more at night. If your thyroid isn’t working right, that can also be a reason for night eating syndrome.
Who’s Most Likely to Have Night Eating Syndrome?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the night-eating syndrome affects 1.5 percent of the population and evenly occurs in men and women.
People who have night eating syndrome might:
- Have used drugs or alcohol that messed up their sleep schedule
- Developed bad habits in college
- Feel stressed or sad
- Not feel good about themselves or want things to be perfect
- Have trouble sleeping because of something like sleep apnea
- Have tried diets or not eaten much before
Some Signs of Night Eating Syndrome Are:
- Waking up again and again at night to eat
- Eating mostly foods with carbohydrates (like bread and pasta)
- Doing this pattern for at least two months
- Feeling like you can’t control how much you eat
- Being heavier or much heavier than you should be
- Eating at least a quarter (25 percent) of what you eat all day after dinner and before breakfast
- Keeping what you eat a secret, especially at night
How Can It Be Treated?
People with night eating disorder usually get help in these ways:
- Learning about what triggers this behavior
- Figuring out what foods are best for you
- Talking with a therapist
- Doing exercises that help the body
- Trying out cognitive-behavioral therapy (a special way of talking and thinking about things)
- Taking a “whole body” approach to wellness
Tips to Stop Food Cravings at Night:
- Eat three meals each day
- Make breakfast a big meal
- Never skip meals
- Cut down or stop eating fructose, which can mess up your hunger signals
- Eat foods with lots of protein during the day
- Eat foods with tryptophan at night (like grains and poultry) to help you feel better
Find out more ways on how to stop food cravings at night and and where sugar hides in my “End Sugar Cravings” workbook.
Most people struggle to implement changes and get out of the vicious cycle.
There are a few additional tips I want to include that makes it easier to stick to your new routine and help overcome night eating syndrome.
- Use candles or soft light after dark, rather than electronics that give off blue light, which further suppresses melatonin.
- Reduce stress by practicing techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and relaxation.
- One study found that a twenty-minute muscle relaxation exercise performed each day increased appetite in the morning and reduced late-night eating.
- Create tiny habits and build on them, instead of using willpower
- Stop boredom-related eating by doing something else and finding a purpose or hobby
- Always have healthy eating options ready
- Look into amino acid therapy balancing neurotransmitters to reduce cravings
- Learn to be more in tune with your hunger through practicing mindful eating
- Address your gut health to physically reduce cravings
- Work with a hormonal health coach to balance your hormones
I want to leave you with a word of hope.
You can overcome your struggles and deserve to finally break free of shame and guilt from a nighttime eating disorder or any other eating issues you might have.
I have seen it with hundreds of clients. Using the right approach, you can overcome obstacles of the past.
Whether you want to lose weight or address nighttime eating, I would love to talk with you.
Together we can develop an action plan that works for you and finally helps you reach your health or weight goals.
To get more help if you struggle with NES or get help to overcome your issues, contact me here: