Eating Disorder – Night eating syndrome

Night eating syndrome is an eating disorder[1] that has only been recognized as such since 1999, and affects between 1 and 2% of the population. NES is also characterized as a sleeping disorder. NES is often accompanied by or confused with sleep-related eating disorder (SRED), although the two are distinct.

This is an ongoing, persistent behavior, unlike the occasional late snack or skipped meal that most people have from time to time. In fact, people with this disorder are often unaware of their nocturnal meals, although some feel they won’t be able to sleep without eating first. ( Note: a person falls asleep more easily on a full stomach. ) Among those who are aware of their night eating, there is often an emotional component; the diet of the night eater is comfort food

People who suffer from night eating syndrome generally:

  • Skip breakfast, and go several hours after waking before their first meal.
  • Consume at least half their calories after dinner. (Many sources would list this as after 9 or 10 pm; dessert is generally not included, if one is eaten. )
  • Late night binges almost always consist of carbohydrates. However, this eating is typically spread over several hours, which is not consistent with a typical eating binge as seen in other eating disorders.
  • Suffer from depression or anxiety, often in connection with their eating habits.
  • These night eating episodes typically bring guilt rather than hedonic enjoyment.
  • Has trouble sleeping in general; see insomnia.
  • Is more likely than the general public to sleepwalk.
  • To be considered a bona fide disorder, this pattern should continue for two months or more


Night eating disorder tends to lead to weight gain; as many as 28% of those seeking gastric-bypass surgery were found to suffer from NES in one study. In fact, while sufferers are not always overweight, one in four people who are overweight by 100 lbs or more are thought to suffer from night eating syndrome. The disorder is accompanied by what sufferers describe as an uncontrolable desire to eat, akin to addiction, and is often treated chemically.The antidepressant drug Zoloft has shown some ability to help NES sufferers.