Simple Ideas to Help Combat Night Eating Syndrome

Contributed by: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC for Eating Disorder Hope

Many of us have had a mid-night snack from time to time, or have found ourselves in the kitchen during the middle of the night. If theses occurrences are prolonged and frequent, could something more serious be at hand?

Night Eating Syndrome (NES) is a type of condition that is characterized by overeating at night or waking to eat throughout the night [1]. Individuals who struggle with night eating syndrome may have a lack of appetite in the morning after eating during the night.

The main criteria that defines night eating syndrome includes:

  1. Consuming at least 25% of daily calories following dinner or during night time, and
  2. Awakening to eat at night at least three times per week [2].

The People Who Suffer From Night Eating Syndrome

Night Eating Syndrome is more commonly observed in people who frequently diet, are on weight-reduction programs, or who are candidates for bariatric surgery [3], though it is estimated that about 1.5% of the general population struggles with night eating syndrome [3].

There is perhaps an under diagnosis of this disorder, as night eating syndrome is not as widely known or recognized among health professionals. The first step towards appropriately managing this disorder is recognizing what you might be dealing with and seeking appropriate help and care.

If you find yourself waking frequently at night to eat or feel that something is not right with your night eating habits, it is important to address these concerns with your health professional. If left untreated, night eating disorder can lead to many physical complications.

Treatment for Night Eating Syndrome

What treatments are available for night eating syndrome? Once night eating syndrome has been identified, there are many treatment options that can effectively help manage this disorder. This might include counseling and psychotherapy, medications, and medical nutrition therapy.

A sleep study might also help identify if there are any other conditions present that are interfering with normal sleep cycles. It is critical to address and treat this disorder with a holistic approach that focuses on a whole person approach.

If you have been struggling with night eating syndrome, know that you are not alone and that you can overcome this troubling disorder. Start by seeking out professional counsel and treatment – voicing your concerns to someone you care for can also be an important step towards healing.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

Have you or a loved one struggled with Night Eating Syndrome? What treatments helped you effectively deal with this disorder?


  1. Allison KC, Stunkard AJ, Thier SL. Overcoming Night Eating Syndrome: A Step-By-Step Guide to Breaking the Cycle. Oakland, Calif.: New Harbinger Publications; 2004.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on March 13th, 2015
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