Night Eating

By Medically reviewed by hellodoktor


What is night eating?

Night eating syndrome is an eating disorder, characterized by a delayed circadian pattern of food intake. Individuals with night eating syndrome feel like they have no control over their eating patterns, and often feel shame and guilt over their condition.

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.

How common is night eating?

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.

However, it can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of night eating?

People with night eating syndrome can remember eating during the night. They usually do not feel hungry in the early part of the day. They may delay their first meal of the day for many hours. Then later, after the evening meal, they may eat more than a quarter of the food they eat each day.

This pattern of eating cannot be explained by changes in the person’s sleep schedule or local social routines (for example, a custom of eating late at night). People with this problem feel upset about their night eating.

People with night eating syndrome also have sleep problems, including difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. People with this problem are more likely to be obese. And depression is common in people who have night eating syndrome.

Night eating syndrome is different from binge eating disorder. People with binge eating disorder usually do not have episodes of binge eating during the night (10 p.m. to 6 a.m.). But if they do, they eat large amounts of food in a single sitting. People with night eating syndrome tend to eat smaller amounts of food many times during the night.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consulting 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?

Doctors are not sure what causes night eating syndrome. But some studies show that it may be related to problems with the sleep-wake cycle and certain hormones.

Causes of night eating syndrome vary, but there is usually a variety of contributing factors. Sometimes college students pick up the habit of eating at night and are unable to break the habit when they become working adults. High achievers sometimes work through lunches, and then overcompensate by eating more at night.

Night eating syndrome, ironically, may be a response to dieting. When people restrict their intake of calories during the day, the body signals the brain that it needs food and the individual typically overcompensates at night. Night eating may also be a response to stress.

Those with night eating syndrome are often high achievers, but eating patterns can affect their ability to socialize or manage work-related responsibilities. They may also have different hormonal patterns, resulting in their hunger being inverted so that they eat when they should not and do not eat when they should.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for night eating?

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.

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 diagnosed?

To find out if you have night eating syndrome, your doctor will ask questions about your medical history and eating patterns. Night eating syndrome often happens along with sleep problems, so your doctor may want to do tests of your sleep (polysomnography).

How is night eating treated?

As with other eating disorders, successful treatment of night eating syndrome typically requires a combination of therapies.

Treatment for night eating syndrome typically begins with educating patients about their condition, so they are more aware of their eating patterns and can begin to identify triggers that influence how they eat. Just identifying that they have night eating syndrome and that it is not their fault can be an important first step toward recovery.

Treatment of night eating syndrome also includes nutrition assessment and therapy, exercise physiology, and an integration of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), interpersonal therapy (IT) and stress management. An additional online component may also help patients gain control over their disorders.

It is important for individuals with night eating syndrome to change their behavior by changing their beliefs. If they believe that they are powerless to change the way they eat, they will not be able to change.

Lifestyle changes & Home remedies

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

These home remedies may help you reduce the risk of night eating, include:

  • Identify the cause: Some people eat most of their food late in the evening or during the night. To change this habit, you need to identify the cause of the problem.
  • Identify your triggers: As well as identifying the overall cause of your overeating, you may find it useful to look for a specific pattern of events that usually sets off your eating behavior.
  • Use a routine: If you’re overeating because you aren’t eating enough during the day, then getting yourself into a routine can help.
  • Plan your meals: As part of your routine, you may also benefit from using a meal plan.
  • Seek emotional support: If you think you may have night time eating syndrome or binge eating disorder, then you may want to seek professional help.
  • De-stress: Anxiety and stress are two of the most common reasons why people eat when they aren’t hungry. However, using food to curb your emotions is a bad idea. If you notice that you eat when you are anxious or stressed, try to find another way to let go of negative emotions and relax.

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: February 19, 2017 | Last Modified: September 12, 2019

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