What is Night Eating Syndrome? Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

 Night eating syndrome is a specific type of eating disorder. Today, we’ll discuss what is night eating syndrome; its symptoms, causes, and treatment.

What is Night Eating Syndrome? 

NES (night eating syndrome) is a condition where people eat food at night, and they wake up from sleep to eat something. People with NES condition eat often because they think that it would improve their quality of sleep and put them back to sleep. However, they frequently miss their breakfast because they often have little appetite in the morning. They experience guilt and shame relevant to eating.

Albert Stunkard first floated the term “NES” in 1955, and he considered it as a variation in the behavior of obesity. Often researchers have studied it in the context of obesity. The research studies on NES are barely sufficiently relevant to the other eating disorders.

According to an estimate, 1.5% of the general population has got the NES condition. It’s a very common condition and it prevails roundabout 6-14% of such people that have lost weight, and 9-42% of such people that have gone through the bariatric surgery.

Symptoms of Night Eating Syndrome 

If you’re living with someone that has got the NES condition, then you would experience the symptoms of its condition at home. For instance, you would find that the food is missing or messy kitchen, it would show that the person has been eating at night or sleep-eating episode you can say. It indicates that the person has got the NES condition. Some of the main symptoms of night eating syndrome are as follows;

  • A lot of impairment and distress relevant to the NES condition
  • Recalling and being aware of the night eating episode
  • Eating food excessively after the evening meal
  • Repetitive episodes of eating at night like waking up from sleep and then eating

People with NES condition eat roundabout 25% of their food intake after the evening, and they exhibit the symptoms for three months on average. The episodes of NES would also happen twice a week consistently for three months.

People with NES condition would also experience the binge eating episode (binge comprises consuming a lot of food in a short time and having out-of-control feelings).

Causes of Night Eating Syndrome 

Researchers don’t know the exact causes of the NES condition. Some of the main factors that play their part in the development of NES are as follows;

Daytime Dieting

The NES condition could be a response to dieting during the day. When people limit their food intake during the daytime and keep their bodies in the phase of physical deprivation. The urge to eat later at night is a normal response to the limitation that you put your body into. However, they develop the self-soothing pattern of eating later at night over time.

Circadian Rhythm Problem

According to the natural cycle of darkness and light, the circadian rhythm of people with NES condition is disturbed. It’s the natural biological process that manages our eating and sleeping patterns. Food consumption and appetite have got close relevance in the early hours of wakefulness. Generally, people eat food between the early evening and early morning. People with NES condition follow the normal sleep pattern but exhibit the pattern of late food intake.

According to a study, people with NES condition consume roundabout 56% of the food between 8 PM and 6 AM. Normal people without NES conditions eat approximately 15% of the calories at night.

Other Possible Causes

The imbalance of hormones that disturb the eating pattern would play a role in the development of the NES condition. It creates a response in your body in the form of staying up and consuming food later at night. However, it’s a very difficult habit to change once you become accustomed to it.

Treatment of Night Eating Syndrome 

The treatment plans for night eating syndrome are as follows;


There is little proof to support the fact that medication may have helped to treat eating disorders. Some medicines have helped to treat the NES condition because the disturbance in the circadian rhythm shows a bigger element of biology. Some of the medicines that doctors prescribe are as follows;

  • Sertraline
  • Fluvoxamine
  • Paroxetine
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors


It’s light exposure therapy and very close to treating SAD (seasonal affective disorder). The therapeutic treatment comprises bright light impacting melatonin, it’s a specific hormone that manages your circadian rhythm.

You expose the patients to the bright light in the morning during the phototherapeutic treatment of NES. The focus of the treatment is to reset the body clock and target the disturbed circadian body rhythm through light. Many research studies have shown that it’s a very effective approach.

Cognitive Restructuring

The behavioral changes and cognitive restructuring would help you to change behaviors and thoughts. When the NES condition happens, your therapist would help you to recognize the change in behaviors and thoughts and target them.

It’s easier for the person to think about the first desire to eat after the NES episode. The therapist helps them to analyze the whole process like approaching the food, selecting it, consuming it, and the result that happens afterward. However, when you analyze various steps in the chain, then you realize where you can change the cycle.

Conclusion: What is Night Eating Syndrome? Symptoms, Causes, Treatment 

After an in-depth study of what is night-eating syndrome; its symptoms, causes, and treatment; we have realized that NES could badly impact the health of a person. If you’re experiencing its symptoms, then you should consult with the therapist in order to work on the treatment plan.