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Night eating syndrome is a condition in which people eat large
amounts of food after the evening meal, often waking up during the night to eat. People with this condition may delay their first meal of the day
for many hours.
Experts still do not know very much about night eating syndrome, but
they continue to study the condition.
Doctors are not sure what causes night eating syndrome. But some studies show that it may be related to problems with the sleep-wake cycle and certain hormones.
People with night eating syndrome do remember eating during the night. They usually do not feel hungry in the early part of the day. They may delay their first meal of the day for many hours. Then later, after the evening meal, they may eat more than a quarter of the food they eat each day.
This pattern of eating cannot be explained by changes in the person's sleep schedule or local social routines (for example, a custom of eating late at night). People with this problem feel upset about their night eating.
People with night eating syndrome also have sleep problems, including
difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. People with this problem are more likely to be obese. And depression is common in people who have night eating syndrome.
Night eating syndrome is different from binge eating disorder. People
with binge eating disorder usually do not have episodes of binge eating during
the night (10 p.m. to 6 a.m.). But if they do, they eat large amounts of food in
a single sitting. People with night eating syndrome tend to eat smaller amounts
of food many times during the night.
To find out if you have night eating syndrome, your doctor will ask questions about your medical history and eating patterns. Night eating syndrome often happens along with sleep problems, so your doctor may want to do tests of your sleep (polysomnography).
There is no evidence-based treatment for night eating syndrome. But doctors have seen some success with cognitive-behavioral therapy and with antidepressants.
Other Works Consulted
Milano W, et al. (2012). Night eating syndrome: An overview. Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, 64(1): 2–10.
August 9, 2013
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & W. Stewart Agras, MD, FRCPC - Psychiatry
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