Night Eating Syndrome

March 27, 2012 1:52:29 PM PDT
Have you ever gotten up to eat in the middle of the night? Well, for a lot of people that "habit" may be an indication of a complex disorder.

"Its called 'nighttime eating syndrome.' This is different than sleep eating, where you're asleep and eating. This is where you're awake and eating on a regular basis. It's worth it to recognize this problem to stop it and also for some people who are obese, this condition may be the reason why," David Sade said.

Sleep is what restores us to face the next day.

But for many people, getting through the night to face the next day involves food, binge eating in the middle of the night.

People with nighttime eating syndrome, or NES, wake and then cannot fall back asleep unless they eat.

The tie many people have between emotions and food may be a factor.

"People who tend to engage in more emotional eating also have a higher rate of eating at night. So, going to bed, waking up in the middle of the night, being unable to sleep, then turning to food to help them to return to sleep or to help them cope with feelings of depression or anxiety that may come up," Dr. Margaret Richards said.

It may also be caused by a hormonal imbalance in the brain that shifts the body clock so you're hungry at the wrong time.

Research shows that night eating can affect all ages and both sexes, but it's more common in women. It can not only disrupt a person's sleep pattern, but it can also cause weight gain and embarrassment.

Signs of the syndrome include: No desire for food at breakfast or during the morning; Eating more after dinner, than during it; And being able to sleep "only" after eating.

When eating to sleep starts to become a part of the nighttime routine, the pattern can continue for months.

So it's important to recognize the signs and stop the cycle before it begins.

"If they tend to be more of an emotional eater, so somebody who turns more towards food when they're bored, or sad, or lonely, you know, encouraging them to engage in other activities. So, if they are feeling sad and lonely, maybe you go for a brisk walk around the block, or you read a book or you listen to music, or you talk about your feelings with somebody else," adds Richards.

"It's worth it to get it checked out, evaluation for anxiety and depression should also be considered as NES is often tied to those factors.

Some medications for depression may also solve this problem too by shifting serotonin levels.

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