Night eating syndrome: Why we eat late at night

Carol RoachStarred Page By Carol Roach, 4th Sep 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Health>Mind & Spirit>Sleep

Conditions that affect sleep, our health, and mental health include such topics as eating late at night.

Introduction

Many of us eat late at night, but how many of us know that it is actually a sleep order disease for some people? Night eating syndrome(NES) is a newly defined sleep disorder. It estimated that as much as six million Americans will suffer from night eating syndrome disorder. Night eating syndrome is also known as: nighttime hunger, nocturnal eating, night eating or drinking (syndrome), nocturnal eating (or drinking) syndrome, or the "Dagwood" syndrome.

What is night eating?

According to the International Classification of Sleep Disorders nocturnal eating is a dyssomnia, which means it happens when the person is awake and cannot fall asleep unless he or she eats. Because of this, Dagwood syndrome is also an extrinsic sleep disorder meaning it occurs outside of sleep.

“Not only is night eating syndrome an eating disorder, but one of mood & sleep as well,” says study author Albert Stunkard, MD, of the University of Pennsylvania’s Weight & Eating Disorders Program. Night eating syndrome, may be a combined eating and sleep disorder, but the afflicted are awake when they are eating. In fact, they cannot sleep (insomnia) without eating at night.

What factors can trigger night eating syndrome

What factors can trigger night eating syndrome

  • Possible hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) which can be determined by a glucose tolerant test
  • Habit (conditioned response)
  • An inability to go to sleep unless eating some kind of food.

Who are at risk for getting night eating syndrome?

  • People who eat more than half of their calorie intake after 8 pm at night
  • People who have an ulcer caused by excessive dieting
  • People who are morbidly obese, meaning they are over 100 pounds overweight. About 33 percent of these people have this disorder.

Children as well as adults can suffer from nighttime hunger. Children may repeatedly wake up during the night to ask for food or a drink and refuse to go back to sleep until they get it.

Conclusion

According to Dr. Stunkard, people suffering from a mood disorder such as stress, depression, and anxiety may be using sleep eating as a way to self-medicate. He says it may happen "because they eat a lot of carbohydrates increasing serotonin in the brain, which in turn, leads to sleep."

For night eaters, the urge to eat is an abnormal need, rather than a true hunger, confirmed by an article by Italian researchers in the medical journal “Sleep.”

How to treat night eating syndrome

If the nocturnal eater is a child, the parent or caregiver must figure out if the request for food or drink is a real need. If it appears to be unfounded, or just a habit, the parent or caregiver should ignore the request until the habit is extinguished.

When it comes to adults with night eating syndrome, plan for your evening snacks and make room for it in your regular diet. Make sure you get in your daily meals on schedule. Eat small meals during the day. Eat more protein and less carbohydrates. Make sure the snack is not more than 300 calories.

Form some sort of ritual like taking a walk after eating at night, taking a shower, or saying your prayers in order to signal to your brain that the time for eating is over.

Finally, visit your doctor, to make sure you do not have a medical condition such as hypoglycemia which can be at the root of the problem.

Previous link

Can people eat in their sleep?


All photos taken from the public domain


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Tags

Dagwood Syndrome, Dyssomnia, Eating Disorder, Extrinsic Sleep Disorder, Mood And Sleep Disorder, Mood Disorder, Night Eating Or Drinking Syndrome, Night Eating Syndrome, Night Eating Syndromenes, Nighttime Hunger, Nocturnal Eating, Nocturnal Eating Or Drinking Syndrome, Treating Night Eating Syndrome

Meet the author

author avatar Carol Roach
Retired therapist and author of two books, freelance writer, newsletter editor, and blogger. I write, health, mental health, women's issues, animal , celebrity, history, and SEO articles.

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Comments

author avatar Hibernating Bear
4th Sep 2015 (#)

Its common knowledge men see what is in bed and do the shopping around and the women see what is in bed and eat the shopping in fridge.
Now I am staying with my wife, who always tells me off about my belly and like I said, she is the mother of my children but even a supermodel won't have her figure after one kid. She is perfection for the way she is to me and no she doesn't snack at night but on the contrary, we snack together if we watch a late night romantic movie with a little more food added to it as well.
You have to wait and see my supermodel wife. She is amazing.

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author avatar Hibernating Bear
4th Sep 2015 (#)

We have three kids BTW, three daughters two in teens and one approaching teens.

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author avatar Helen Thomas
4th Sep 2015 (#)


Wow This is interesting ~ Carol.

I like your suggestion shown below on How to treat night eating syndrome

"If the nocturnal eater is a child, the parent or caregiver must figure out if the request for food or drink is a real need. If it appears to be unfounded, or just a habit, the parent or caregiver should ignore the request until the habit is extinguished.

When it comes to adults with night eating syndrome, plan for your evening snacks and make room for it in your regular diet. Make sure you get in your daily meals on schedule. Eat small meals during the day. Eat more protein and less carbohydrates. Make sure the snack is not more than 300 calories.

Form some sort of ritual like taking a walk after eating at night, taking a shower, or saying your prayers in order to signal to your brain that the time for eating is over."

Thanks for sharing this. Richest blessings to you.

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author avatar Shamarie
4th Sep 2015 (#)

Great article!!!

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author avatar Kingwell
5th Sep 2015 (#)

I no longer eat late at night. Blessings.

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