Night Eating Syndrome: When Eating at Night is a Problem

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According to Allison et al (2004) as many as 6 million Americans suffer from night eating syndrome or NES. NES is one of many eating disorders not well understood and poorly diagnosed and treated known collectively as EDNOS (Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified).

What is Night Eating Syndrome?

When an individual obsessively consumes more than half of his or her daily caloric intake after eight o’clock in the evening. In addition, people with NES do not have an appetite during the day and eat more food after dinner than during the meal itself. Frequent and recurrent cycles of eating-sleeping-waking and eating again during the night is common in patients with NES. These uncommon patterns of night eating behavior is not occasional but ongoing. People who have NES are, in the majority of the cases, unaware of their rare eating pattern.

Signs, Symptoms, and Behaviors of Night Eating Syndrome

According to the few research studies published on NES people who have this eating disorders exhibit the following signs, symptoms and behaviors:

  1. They usually skip breakfast and may go without eating well beyond the afternoon

  2. They usually consume their first major meal at dinner time and consume half its daily caloric intake after dinner, or usually after 9-10 pm

  3. Night eating binges are spread over several hours at night which is not consistent with the traditional definition of eating binges

  4. Have guilty feelings and suffer from anxiety and depression

  5. Have usually trouble sleeping and are prone to suffer from sleepwalking

  1. NES may be related or be suffered in conjunction with sleep eating (another EDNOS)


Overcoming NES is not simple. Night Eating Syndrome is poorly understood and only recently has been recognized an as eating disorder. There is no magic pill to cure this eating disorder. First of all it is necessary to diagnose the disease which is difficult. Once diagnosed the person need to assume it has a problem then seek medical advice. Counselling by specialized personnel is needed. The treatment is absolutely individual and crafted o each person situation. Anxiety and depression can be treated with antidepressants. Eating pattern need nutrition and psychiatric counselling.


Allison, KC., Stunkard, AJ., Their, SL (2004). Overcoming Night Eating Syndrome: A Step-by-Step Guide to Breaking the Cycle. New Harbinger Publications