Night eating syndrome



What is night eating syndrome?

Night eating syndrome (NES) is a condition that combines overeating at night with sleep problems. With NES, you eat a lot after dinner, have trouble sleeping, and eat when you wake up at night.

How common is night eating syndrome?

NES affects a little more than 1 in 100 people. If you’re obese, there’s about a 1 in 10 chance you have it. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of night eating syndrome?

If you have NES, you eat at least a quarter of your daily calories after dinner. That fact also bothers you.

If that’s you, and you wake up to eat at least twice a week, you may have NES if you also have at least three of these:

  • Lack of appetite in the morning
  • A strong urge to eat between dinner and sleep
  • Insomnia four or five nights a week
  • A belief that eating is necessary to get to sleep or get back to sleep
  • A depressed mood that gets worse during evening hours

Night eating syndrome is different from binge eating disorder. With BED, you’re more likely to eat a lot at a single sitting. If you have NES, it’s likely that you eat smaller amounts throughout the night. NES is also different from sleep-related eating disorder. With NES, you’ll remember you’ve eaten the night before.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.


What causes night eating syndrome?

It’s not clear. Doctors think it might be related to issues with the sleep-wake cycle and some hormones. Changes in your sleep schedule and routines aren’t responsible.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for night eating syndrome?

You’re more likely to have night eating syndrome if you’re obese or have another eating disorder. A history of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse are more common in people with NES.

Researchers have found a possible link between NES and genetics. There’s a gene called PER1 that’s thought to have a hand in controlling your body clock. Scientists believe a defect in the gene could cause NES. More research is needed.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is night eating syndrome diagnosed?

Your doctor will diagnose night eating syndrome after asking you questions about your sleep and eating habits. This could include a detailed questionnaire. You may also have a sleep test called polysomnography. It measures your:

  • Brain waves
  • Blood oxygen levels
  • Heart and breathing rates

Usually, you’ll have a polysomnography at a hospital or sleep center.

To be diagnosed with NES, you need to overeat at night for at least 3 months. The eating and sleeping patterns also can’t be due to substance abuse, a medical disorder, medication, or another psychiatric issue.

How is night eating syndrome treated?

Antidepressants and cognitive behavioral therapy appear to help, though few studies have been done on NES. One small study found that relaxation training helped shift appetite from night to morning.

Several studies of antidepressants showed improvement with night eating, mood, and quality of life.

You may also take melatonin or substances that boost melatonin for NES.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage night eating syndrome?

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Review Date: November 2, 2017 | Last Modified: November 3, 2017

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