Do you or someone you know wake up at night to get food out of the fridge because you can’t sleep?
Is it that you eat almost nothing during the day, only to raid the fridge when you should be going to sleep?
Are you feeling shame or guilt overnight time eating?
During the day, do you eat little or only healthy food, then binge at night when no one is looking?
Recently I’ve noticed more and more people are having issues eating at night which is also called night eating disorder or NES eating disorder.
Like many eating disorders, it is always a vicious cycle of people trying to find a solution and failing, followed by feeling shame and guilt leading to more eating.
Besides affecting self-esteem, this can also result in weight gain, poor sleep, and energy loss, as well as an overall decline in health.
Today I explain what night eating syndrome is, its causes, and who is most susceptible to it. I will explore some of the symptoms and offer solutions to overcome the NES eating disorder.
What is Night Eating Syndrome?
Night eating syndrome is an eating disorder, in that is similar to binge eating, but the amount of food consumed at night is not necessarily objectively large.
This syndrome features a delayed circadian pattern that affects the timeliness of food intake.
Individuals with this syndrome eat most of their food in the evening and little during the day.
What is the Cause of Night-time Eating?
People with night-eating syndrome may be overweight or obese and often exhibit some of the same shame and secrecy as other food disorders.
They tend to eat rapidly and snack on high-calorie foods.
Common causes include stress, depression, sleep disorders, and trauma.
NES eating disorder can be due to deficiency of melatonin creation at night (leading to less deep sleep), often due to stress and cortisol dys-regulation.
Less leptin and higher ghrelin output lead to more cravings at night.
Higher thyroid-stimulating hormones due to an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) are also often found in night-eating syndrome.
Who is Most Susceptible?
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 suffer from night eating syndrome often:
- Have a history of substance abuse, which can alter the sleep/wake cycles
- Developed unhealthy habits in college
- Suffer from stress or depression
- Have low self-esteem or a perfectionist attitude
- Suffered from a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea
- Experience with dieting or restricting food intake
Some of the symptoms of night eating syndrome are:
- Waking up recurrently to eat at night
- Eating mostly carbohydrates
- This pattern lasts at least 2 months
- Feeling a lack of control over food
- Being overweight or obese
- Eating at least 25 percent of daily food intake after dinner and before breakfast
- Secrecy, especially about food intake
What are the Medical Treatments?
Night eating disorder is typically treated through:
- Education and identification of triggers
- Nutrition assessment
- Exercise physiology
- An integration of cognitive-behavioral therapy
Some of the things that may help to counteract night eating syndrome are:
- Eat three meals a day
- Make breakfast a large meal.
- Don’t skip meals, ever.
- Reduce or eliminate fructose, which can disrupt leptin.
- Eat protein-rich meals during the day.
- Include more serotonin-increasing foods high in tryptophan at night such as grains and poultry.
Find out more ways to overcome cravings 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: