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Night Eating Syndrome

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Night Eating Syndrome or NES is thought to be a combination of an eating disorder, a sleeping disorder and a mood disorder.


Although NES is recognized as such by the general public it is not yet an official disorder recognized by the medical community. Causes and treatments of night eating syndrome are still in the process of being researched and developed. So far scientists believe it is primarily caused by stress and poor sleeping. It may also prove to be genetic and run in families.


What are the common Symptoms of Night Eating Syndrome (NES)?

An individual suffering from NES will not eat breakfast or any food for several hours after rising. Over 50% of their daily food intake will occur between 9pm and morning. Unlike binge eaters, eating will take place over a period of hours and almost always consist of carbohydrate type foods that are sugary and starchy. Many, but not all NES eaters will be overweight or obese as they take in about 500 more calories per day than other eaters.


What causes Night Eating Syndrome?

As NES is thought to be brought on by stress, these types of eaters can be edgy, tense, anxious, nervous or agitated. Depression is seen as a huge component in night eating disorders. One school of thought is that perhaps this emotional eating style uses comfort foods to raise the levels of the brain chemical serotonin which helps us to sleep. Regardless of the whys, NES eaters will feel guilt and shame the next morning which only leads to lowered self esteem and keeps the negative eating pattern going.


Is there a treatment for Night Eating Syndrome?

Treatment for night eating syndrome, because of the complexity of diagnosis, has to be done on an individual basis, combining mental health therapy, education on diet and nutrition, possibly medication to reduce stress, time spent in a sleep lab for observation and a great deal of support. This particular disorder is showing signs of responding favorably to an antidepressant chemical called Zoloft.


To deal with this or any other eating disorder, see your physician who in all likelihood will give you a physical exam to rule out anything more serious and then help you set up a recovery program that is tailored specifically to you.