Night Eating Syndrome (NES) is a disorder that causes people to eat an excessive amount of food either just before bedtime or in the middle of the night. Although it is not formally recognized as an eating disorder, it has many of the symptoms and consequences of one, including a compulsive need to eat, feelings of guilt or shame over eating behavior, obsessing over food, feeling out of control, and physical and mental health consequences. People who suffer from NES are at a high risk for obesity and depression, which makes it very important to recognize the symptoms and learn how to treat Night Eating Syndrome.
Symptoms of Night Eating Syndrome
People who suffer from Night Eating Syndrome will typically limit the amount of food they eat throughout the day and then compensate by binging just before bedtime or by waking up in the middle of the night in order to eat. This pattern of self-starvation and over-consumption causes many individuals with NES to develop insomnia or other sleep disturbances. Many people with this disorder will feel as if they cannot fall asleep unless they eat right before going to bed; however, some individuals suffering from NES will not even be aware that they are eating at night because they are waking up and eating in a sleep-walking state.
Other symptoms of Night Eating Syndrome are:
* Binge eating right before bed or continually eating during the night
* Feeling guilty, anxious or upset while eating
* Difficulty falling or staying asleep
* Uncontrollable desire to eat during the night
* Eating over half your daily calories after dinner
* Little or no appetite in the morning
* Feeling nauseous in the morning
* Excessive weight gain
* Feeling out of control over the ability to stop
Causes of Night Eating Syndrome
Night Eating Syndrome can be caused by several different factors, including hormone imbalances, excessive stress, and underlying eating and mood disorders such as depression, anxiety, self-starvation and food addiction.
* Hormone imbalances, such as very low levels of melatonin, leptin and serotonin, can disrupt normal sleep/wake cycles and negatively affect eating patterns.
* Excessive stress at work or home can cause a person to turn to night eating in order to cope.
* Strict dieting throughout the day can lead the person to overcompensate by bingeing at night.
* Depression and anxiety can lead to emotional binge eating. During binges, people typically turn to carbohydrate-rich foods, which have been shown to increase levels of serotonin in the brain and help a person sleep at night.
* An addiction to food can cause many to develop Night Eating Syndrome because they have learned to rely on night binges in order to fall asleep and function during the day.
How to Treat Night Eating Syndrome
The first step in treating Night Eating Syndrome is to consult a physician to get a proper diagnosis. Once youíre properly diagnosed, your physician can determine what is causing your disorder and develop an appropriate strategy for managing your eating and sleeping habits. A psychologist and nutritionist can also help you develop a winning strategy for treating your disorder.
Some common treatments for Night Eating Syndrome are:
* Hormonal supplements. If a chemical imbalance is found to be the cause, hormonal supplements can put your body back on track and create normal sleeping cycles.
* Medications, such as Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SRIs). If depression and anxiety are the cause, SRIs may be prescribed to help ease the mental symptoms and reduce the need to eat at night.
* Psychotherapy. A psychotherapist can help uncover the underlying issues causing the disorder and teach you ways to cope with these issues so that you no longer turn to food.
* Behavioral therapy, individual counseling and group therapy. All of these types of therapy can give you an opportunity to discuss your disorder, find support, and learn techniques to help you manage your night eating.
* Nutritional counseling. In order to maintain recovery from NES, a nutritionist can teach you the proper eating and exercise skills need to maintain healthy eating habits and live a healthier lifestyle.
If you’ve been diagnosed with Night Eating Syndrome, a professional treatment facility can tailor a specific treatment plan for your specific needs and put you on the road to recovery.