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Night Eating Syndrome : Causes, Signs, Symptoms, Treatment, Recovery

What is Night Eating Syndrome (NES)?

NES is a disorder connected with the consumption of Food. Referred to as Night Eating Syndrome it is another aspect of overeating or irregular food consumption patterns. However, it differs from other patterns like binge eating disorder in the fact that the patient does not eat large quantities of food. It was first categorized in the year 1955 by Dr. Albert Stunkard.

Night Eating Syndrome

There are two basic criteria that define the same. The first is that the patient consumes close to 25% of their daily calorie intake once they have completed their supper. Next, the patient will indulge in this activity at least three times in a period of seven days. There are certain lifestyle disorders that affect these individuals. This includes Anxiety, DepressionInsomnia and Obesity. Added to this list is the regret they feel as soon as they wake up in the morning and realize that they have indulged in this activity.

Night Eating Syndrome or NES is much more common as compared to Bulimia or Anorexia. Studies indicate that around 1.5% to 5% of the normal population suffer from Night Eating Syndrome. Some patients indulge in the same only a few times in a week. Others indulge at least five times in a week. The latter also suffer from lack of sleep if they do not partake of this activity.

What Are The Causes of Night Eating Syndrome (NES)?

While the causes connected with Night Eating Syndrome (NES) are varied, there are a number of different factors. Some patients start when they are in college while others like employees try to get more work done during lunchtime and as a result increase their consumption in the night.

Night eating syndrome can also be a response to dieting. When a person starts the process of dieting, the amount of calories they intake is restricted. As a result, this leads to night eating syndrome. Some people also develop the syndrome when they are subjected to stressful conditions on a regular basis.

Many patients fall under the high achievers category. However, their irregular eating patterns impact their work management. They also may suffer from changes in the hormones which cause their body cycle to act in an inverse manner making them have cravings at night.

Risk Factors for Night Eating Syndrome (NES)

Night Eating Syndrome or NES is a serious eating disorder that can have a negative impact on your diet and your sleeping patterns.

Night Eating Syndrome or NES can impact both eating as well as resting patterns of the body. It puts a lot of stress on the digestive system at nights when the body, usually looks to rest and consume the food ingested. This leads to patients being obese. In turn, Night Eating Syndrome or NES causes a number of residual complications like Diabetes, Arthritis, Diseases of the Kidney and Heart, Hypertension and even some forms of cancer.

If we look at the resulting patterns, constant interruptions can affect memory functions, the patients’ mood as well as different functions related to the brain. It can also lead to a dip in concentration and an increase in anxiety levels and depression. Gorging on food as a relaxing response only seeks to heighten the issue. Patients need to consult a specialist if this pattern has been repeated for a period of 7-14 days. Patients will require intensive therapy to get back to their normal eating and resting patterns.

Signs and Symptoms of Night Eating Syndrome (NES)

Patients suffering from Night Eating Syndrome or NES partake most of their food at night. However, not all patients indulge in overeating or binging. This is a huge difference from those who suffer from binge eating disorder. Those who suffer from Night Eating Syndrome or NES are unable to exercise control over their patterns of food consumption and end up feeling guilty over their actions.

Such patients do not eat a proper breakfast and their first meal of the day is consumed much later than a normal person. They will also have a heavy dinner, which is the opposite of a normal individual. The consumption patterns of people suffering from Night Eating Disorder or NES include continuing to eat post dinner and even indulging in regular nightly snacks.

Only if a patient has been doing this uninterrupted for a period of seven days to two months, can they be said to suffer from the Night Eating Syndrome or NES. The disorder can also be on set by stress and depression. Patients can be agitated, nervous and anxious during night time. They cannot rest and feel the urge to eat constantly. Their carbohydrate, sugar and starch consumption increases. They do not derive any pleasure from such activities.

Treatment for Night Eating Syndrome (NES)

Night Eating Syndrome or NES cannot be treated with any singular form of therapy. It will require different types of treatments to help the patient recover. Educating the patient is the first step in this process of cure for Night Eating Syndrome or NES. Patients need to understand their patterns when it comes to consumption and triggers that cause them to behave in this manner. Understanding that there is no shame or guilt associated is an important step.

Assessing the nutritional needs of an individual and helping them with exercise and therapy is part and parcel of the treatment. Techniques like Dialectical Behavioral therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, stress management and Interpersonal Therapy are crucial for this Night Eating Syndrome (NES). People suffering from Night Eating Syndrome or NES need to make changes in their belief system. They have to gain the confidence that their consumption patterns can be changed.

Recovery Tips for Night Eating Syndrome (NES):

When it comes to the recovery process from Night Eating Syndrome or NES, the methods and techniques used should include points like a disruption in resting patterns, emotional issues as well as carvings related to food. A recovery plan for night eating syndrome might include:

Hormone levels related to the regulation of appetite and sleep should be restored to normal parameters. Partaking of melatonin supplement will help in resting better which could help in curbing the number of visits to the refrigerator.

Treatment of any emotional issues is also an important aspect. If mood swings or anxiety is part of the person’s actions, then they need to be treated by a certified psychiatrist.

Reduction in stress levels is also important in recovering from Night Eating Syndrome or NES. This is due to the fact that unmanaged stress can act as a trigger for increase in anxiety and eventually lead to Night Eating Syndrome or NES. Procedures like acupuncture and yoga are extremely effective methods for the same.

Patients should take the help of a dietitian or nutritionist. This will help them stick to their food goals and also get rid of the obesity gained due to Night Eating Syndrome or NES.


  1. National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) – Night Eating Syndrome: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/other/night-eating
  2. Psychology Today – Understanding Night Eating Syndrome: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/conditions/night-eating-syndrome
  3. Medical News Today – What to know about night eating syndrome: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/317036
  4. Mayo Clinic – Night eating syndrome: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/night-eating-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20378097
  5. National Sleep Foundation – Night Eating Syndrome (NES): https://www.sleepfoundation.org/eating-disorders/night-eating-syndrome

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 22, 2023

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