Night eating can have a huge impact on your overall physical and mental health. If you feel like your health and daily functioning are being affected by your night eating behavior, it may be time to ask for help. It is quite easy to get stuck in a pattern of behavior and it usually requires support to make a change. Haven Hills is here to offer that support for you while you establish a new pattern of eating behavior.
Night Eating Syndrome (NES) is an eating disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of night eating. Falling within the category of night eating disorders, individuals with night eating syndrome eat after awakening from sleep or they eat food very late at night, after having eaten the evening’s meal. Night eating syndrome differs from binge eating in that those with night eating syndrome do not necessarily eat large quantities of food. They feel a loss of control of when they eat, but not necessarily of how much they eat.
Who Suffers from Night Eating Syndrome?
Both men and women equally suffer from night eating syndrome, and it affects approximately 1.5% of Americans at some time in their lives. The causes of night eating syndrome vary. This disordered eating pattern sometimes begins in young adulthood, as college students and others stay up late. Working adults often skip breakfast, work through lunch, and then eat late into the night. Night eating can also be a response to dieting during the day. After restricting calories throughout the day, the body signals the brain (through hunger cues) that it still needs fuel.
Symptoms of Night Eating Syndrome
Are you concerned that you or someone you care about might be suffering from night eating syndrome? Here are some common signs and symptoms:
- Eating late at night or after waking from sleep
- Eating in secret, hiding it from a partner
- Feelings of guilt, shame, disgust, or embarrassment
- Feeling no control over eating at night
- Problems with weight control or obesity
- Failed attempts at dieting
- Negative self-image
- Eating rapidly or without planning to
- Eating more at night than during the day
- Eating high-calorie snacks late at night
Night eating syndrome differs from sleep eating disorders. Night eating occurs while a person is fully awake, even though they may have been asleep earlier in the evening. Sleep eating disorder is when someone is actually sleepwalking.
The natural rhythm of the body’s fuel consumption and use is interrupted when a pattern of night eating is established. Eating most of the day’s calories at night can result in short and long-term effects that challenge both physical and mental health. Because night eating generally includes high-calorie, low-nutrition foods and snacks, night eating disorder can lead to weight problems and obesity. Once a pattern is established, eating at night can also contribute to sleep problems and insomnia, leading to daytime exhaustion, stress, mental confusion, depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.
How is Night Eating Syndrome Treated?
Like treatment for other eating disorders, successful treatment for night eating syndrome includes comprehensive nutritional and psychological care. Treatment includes cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, group psychotherapy and education, exercise physiology, stress management, and support from a registered dietician or nutritionist. Treatment must also include care for co-occurring disorders such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and trauma. Left untreated, these disorders can perpetuate the cycle of night eating, increasing physical and psychological consequences.
If you or someone you care about is struggling with night eating syndrome, don’t wait to get help. There is hope for health and a better quality of life through eating disorder treatment. Call Haven Hills Recovery and speak with our compassionate, professional staff.