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How to Manage Night Eating Syndrome?

Night eating syndrome or NES is one of the most common problems found in people who are already suffering from some kind of eating disorder, like binge eating disorder or bulimia nervosa. Moreover, people who are suffering from conditions like insomnia, erratic or irregular sleeping patterns, can also develop the night-eating syndrome.

Night-eating syndrome is a condition where the person feels that he or she will be unable to sleep without eating just before they go to sleep.(1) People who are suffering from Night-eating syndrome might wake up several times from their sleep and might feel the urge to eat something. They often run the risk of not maintaining a healthy weight and getting into psychological problems like depression. In the course of this discussion, we will take a look at different ways through which night eating syndrome can be managed effectively.(2)

How to Manage Night Eating Syndrome?

The good news in this perspective is that night eating syndrome is a condition that can be treated effectively with simple medical intervention. Talking about the methods of treatment, they can be generally divided into two categories:

  • The first one is through the help of medicines or pharmaceutical treatment
  • The second one generally deals with psychological intervention for night eating syndrome.

Let us take a look at each one of them.

  1. Pharmaceutical Treatment for Night Eating Syndrome

    Studies in the domain have revealed that serotonin plays a major role in the development and management of night eating syndrome. Serotonin affects our appetite and also craving for certain kinds of food items along with the circadian rhythm.(3) A higher level of serotonin can disturb our eating habits. This is exactly why antidepressant medications especially the one that deals with SSRIs are popularly opted for treating the condition of the night eating syndrome. Collectively it has been found that medicine related to sertraline, melatonin medications, and topiramate may be considered to be quite useful for treating night eating syndrome.(3) The minimum time span for which the treatment needs to be continued is six to eight weeks. It is only after the completion of the treatment; it can be discerned whether the treatment has turned out to be successful or not. If the treatment procedure and the medication are useful then it can be continued for at least a year so that the condition can be put to rest once and for all.

  2. Psychological Intervention for Night Eating Syndrome

    Apart from the pharmacological or pharmaceutical treatment methods, psychological interventions have also been proven to manage night eating syndrome. Particular approaches like progressive muscle relaxation technique can help to decrease levels of anxiety, stress, evening appetite, and also morning anorexia. Further, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has also exhibited effectiveness on different psychiatric problems like depression, insomnia and eating disorders.(4) Experiments have revealed that people suffering from night eating syndrome are often affected by cognitive distortions when they feel that they will be unable to sleep without eating just before their sleeping hours.(4) Some of them also have very specified cravings and feelings of depression and anxiety. CBT for treating night eating syndrome includes different elements like psycho-educating the person on the condition of night eating syndrome and habits of healthy eating, modifying their actual eating regime, strategies that will help them to relax, establish better sleeping hygiene, cognitive restructuring, plan better physical activities, and inculcate greater social support. The aim of CBT in treating the problem of night eating syndrome is to make corrections in the delayed rhythm of the circadian cycle. The therapy tries to interrupt the connection between night eating and sleeping disorder.

Tips to Overcome Night Eating Syndrome

Let us now take a look at some helpful measures and behavior which can assist you in intervening with the condition of night eating syndrome:

You must make a chart for your meals throughout the day. Even if there is a certain point in time when you are not hungry, you must eat something so that your food is properly spaced out. The main aim here is to encourage the person to increase their food intake during the early hours of the day and eating less before night.(3)

You must re-establish a routine of your night time which will help you to wind down and relax better. Try switching off all your screens at least three hours before your bedtime so that a sleep signal starts blinking in your brain as you continue with the procedure over a period of time.(1) You can also practice reading in low light or drinking some soothing drink just before bed. Enter your bed only when you are sleepy.

Control your light throughout the day and try to reduce the brightness of your light as the evening progresses.(2) It is always better to be exposed to bright lights in the morning but soft and tender light during the evening. This will help you to relax and sleep better at night.


Night eating syndrome is an eating and psychiatric disorder that has connections with other conditions like metabolic and endocrine disturbances, obesity, and sleeping problems. Recognizing the condition is important so that relevant treatment procedures can be started. This will help to prevent the worsening of the situation. If the condition is recognized in a person, it is better to get medical intervention earlier than later. Both the pharmaceutical as well as psychological treatment interventions need to be combined and applied together to treat the condition of night eating syndrome.


Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:March 8, 2022

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