What is Night Eating Syndrome?
Eating disorders encompass a wide range of mentally and physically debilitating disorders. Nearly everyone has at least heard of anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder, the three most commonly diagnosed eating disorders. However, there are several other niche eating disorders recognized by medical professionals.
One such eating disorder has been garnering attention as it is recognized in a growing number of adults. More and more people are reporting signs of a sleep-related eating disorder known as night eating syndrome (NES) which disrupts healthy eating and sleeping habits simultaneously.
What is NES?
Night eating disorder is characterized by a consistent habit of eating during the night with full awareness as well as feeling unable to sleep without eating beforehand. For NES to be diagnosed, several symptoms must be present and persist for at least two months.
These symptoms include:
- Little or no appetite for breakfast or in the morning
- Eating more food after dinner than during the meal
- Eating more than half of daily food intake after dinner
- Recurrent awakenings from sleep that require eating to fall back asleep
The pattern often seems innocuous at first, but over time it can interfere with an individual’s nutrition as well as causing weight gain and feelings of shame, guilt, and depression.
Similar to most eating disorders, NES is most frequently diagnosed in women. However, both genders are vulnerable to the disorder. NES affects approximately 2% of the general population, and about 10% of obese individuals.
Many individuals with NES diet during the day, leading to hungry feelings and binge behaviors in the evening. There is also evidence linking NES with a history of alcoholism, drug abuse, and other sleep disorders in individuals.
Treatment For NES
Night eating disorder can be treated, but it must be treated as both a sleep disorder and an eating disorder. To be diagnosed, individuals must undergo an interview and may be asked to spend a night in a sleep lab where brain activity can be monitored for the night.
From there, medication may be prescribed to help manage sleep issues while therapy strategies are used to address mental aspects of the disorder such as body image issues, anxiety, and depression.
If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these signs or eating behaviors, please call (888) 298-4673. We can answer any questions you have and see if treatment is the right path for you or your loved one.