What if this is you? Imagine you have enjoyed a good dinner. However, in a short period of time the cravings start. You’ve had a nourishing dinner, but emotionally you are still feeling empty. Later you decide to sleep but you toss and turn trying to go to sleep but instead you lay awake with your stomach craving something. Can’t sleep? So you get up and go for favorite high calorie snack. This doesn’t happen just one time it happens infrequently throughout the night. By morning the extra food intake during the night inspires guilt and shame, which can again lead to avoidance of breakfast, helping to keep the cycle going.
Many individuals have feelings of shame because they don’t have control over food; night eating syndrome is a real disorder and you can get help. If something similar happens to you, you probably have night eating syndrome.
More Information on what is Night Eating Syndrome?
A person with night eating syndrome experiences a daily cycle with respect to food intake Understanding this cycle is the first step to being able to plan the gentle changes. After a large amount of food consumed during the night (33% or more of daily calories after dinner according to Stunkard AJ, Grace WJ, Wolf HG: The night-eating syndrome Am J Med 1955; 19:78–86), the person has no desire to eat much for breakfast. Minimum food intake continues through the day, while depression becomes more pronounced at the end of the day. A significant amount of food is consumed for dinner, but 33% or more of the food intake occurs after dinner and at one or more times during the night. This eating does not normally qualify as binging because it is usually occurs over several hours during the night.
During the nighttime, individuals with night eating syndrome have a decrease in the hormone that accompanies sleep, melatonin. Researchers have found that the drop in melatonin contributes to their sleep disturbances.
Who is at Risk of Developing Night Eating Syndrome?
Night-eating syndrome is thought to occur in 10% of obese people seeking treatment for their obesity.
Researchers have found that the triggers are:
3. Interpersonal stressors
5. Prolonged dieting
6. Body image dissatisfaction
How is Night Eating Syndrome different from Binge Eating and Bulimia?
Relatively small snacks are frequently eaten that are high in calories at night. Individuals with binge eating disorder and/or bulimia consume large amounts of food in a short time frame. The binges may be infrequent.
Check out the Treatment Tips to decrease or eliminate night eating:
(one – two percent of the population has night eating syndrome, but the rate is as high as six percent among those who are obese. The emotionally charged eating tends to run in families with addictions according to The American Journal of Psychiatry.)
- • Progressive muscle relaxation with affirmative healing statements have been shown to reduce symptoms associated with night eating syndrome
- • 5 HTP has shown to be helpful in reducing the carbohydrate cravings that can be a part of the night eating syndrome and 5-HTP addresses the stress by reducing the body’s need to release the stress hormone cortisol. The food consumed at late hours is often high-calorie, starchy food. Carbohydrates adjust the chemical balance in the brain, increasing serotonin levels. Increased serotonin, in turn, helps the person to sleep. 5HTP can do this without the weight gain.
- Start with 200 mg. after dinner. Then check how you feel in four days. You can add 200mg. after lunch and 200 mg. after dinner if you are still experiencing cravings and overeating at night.
- • For hormonal issues, one way to combat night eating syndrome is to administer tryptophan. Tryptophan has a similar effect to carbohydrate consumption; it ultimately results in a raised level of serotonin. .
- • Of course, it is also helpful to address the issues that create stress. This often calls for some form of mental health counseling.
- • Structured nutritional meal plans are a means of reducing the episodes of dietary restriction and the urges to binge and purge, plus natural weight loss can happen.
- Skipping meals is a trigger for night eating. Make a commitment to change and plan three meals a day.
- Spread your calories out evenly over the day to avoid feeling overly hungry
- Eat breakfast even if you don’t feel like it
- Plan a healthy after dinner snack in a pre-portioned package
- Eat a serving of whole grains with dinner
- Adequate nutritional intake can prevent cravings and promote satiety (See article at)
The following are more practical suggestions to curb night eating
- • Brush your teeth after dinner and after any snack.
- • Freeze dinner leftovers for lunch or next dinner so you don’t snack on them later.
- • Chew XyliChew Gum – Peppermint from a health food store.
- • Keep your kitchen free of junk food by making a grocery list of wholesome choices and buying them.
- • Find other activities like drawing, knitting, to keep your hands and mind preoccupied or go for a walk.