Night Eating Syndrome
Symptoms and indications of night eating disorder include skipping breakfast, continual snacking after dinner, waking up during the night to eat, suffering from insomnia, and suffering from depression. This disorder often plagues individuals who already have a weight problem. Possible causes of night eating syndrome are fluctuations in hormone levels, stress, strict dieting during the day, sleep apnea, biology, genetics and emotions. Treatments may include doing a sleep study, taking medication, changes in diet, and counseling. Consider prayer and meditating on God's Word before bedtime. "That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God." (1 Corinthians 2:5)
People who skip breakfast, eat more in the evening and like to stay up late are often referred to as night owls. A couple of the symptoms of night eating syndrome is skipping breakfast and eating more in the evening; however, that doesn't mean that all night owls have the syndrome. Individuals who have the syndrome have other symptoms as well. They usually have trouble sleeping, suffer from insomnia, and awake often during the night, suffer with guilt feelings about snacking and have emotional issues that they try to solve by eating.
Emotional eaters are individuals who are trying to fix the way they feel by using food as a drug. Eating makes them feel better temporarily but it doesn't last. Being on an emotional roller coaster can cause a person to overeat and eventually suffer from obesity and other health problems associated with it. Obesity and night eating disorder often go hand in hand. Obesity can be part of the problem since being overweight can cause changes in hormone levels and neurotransmitters in the brain. Take chocolate for an example, it raises the serotonin levels in the brain and provides a temporary feeling of pleasure and well-being. The problem is the feeling is only temporary so that means having more a little later or just eating it continually to keep experiencing the high.
Dieting during the day and consuming most of the calories in the evening and at night is typical with someone who has night eating syndrome. Those suffering with guilt feelings for snacking so much will often decide not to eat anything during the day or may decide to put themselves on a strict diet. Research has revealed that skipping meals causes the body to go in starvation mode. This causes the body to hold on to fat stores and when this happens any weight that is lost is probably muscle tissue instead of fat. Of course by the end of the day a person's blood sugar will drop causing lethargy and fatigue. So the cycle begins again, the individual eats to feel better and figures that abstaining from food all day makes it alright to eat a lot.
Stress can have a big effect on a person's eating habits and can lead to psychological problems. Prolonged stress can lead to obsessive compulsive disorder and night eating syndrome. Stress can deplete the body, affect hormone levels, cause panic attacks, depression and irritability, cause a person to be less productive in their work and with relationships, lead to feelings of guilt, and feelings that their life is out of control. A person who suffers with unmanaged stress should talk to a doctor. Taking stress management classes can help an individual learn how to cope with their stress. Counseling and therapy may be helpful as well.
Sleep studies are often prescribed for a person who has night eating disorder and other sleep related problems. Other sleep problems include but are not limited to sleep apnea, nocturnal sleep-related eating disorder, restless legs syndrome, narcolepsy, insomnia, and sleep-walking. A sleep study monitors the patient while experiencing sleep cycles in an effort to determine a diagnosis. A patient should keep a diary for 2 weeks before the sleep study to assist the doctor in making an informed diagnosis and treatment.
Dietary changes may provide some significant help with sleeping difficulties. A doctor will suggest discontinuing the use of caffeine and alcohol because both of these substances can interfere with sleep. A dietitian or nutritionist can provide a meal plan that can help with weight loss and provide health benefits that can work towards helping a person with a night eating disorder. Snacking on fresh fruits and vegetables will help to provide an individual with needed nutrients. Whole grains, foods high in fiber, and foods high in omega 3 fatty acids are other good choices. Limit simple carbohydrates and items that are high in sugar and fat.
Medications may be effective for treating illnesses that affect sleep. Some medications that are commonly prescribed for night eating syndrome are anti-depressants, and sleeping pills. Some other things that can be done that provide health benefits and more refreshing sleep include exercising early in the day, keeping the bedroom sleep friendly by turning off all lights, making sure the temperature is comfortable, and turn off all noise makers. Try not to eat at least 2 hours before bedtime. If a snack is needed close to bedtime choose one that promotes sleepiness such as bananas, apricots, almonds, peaches, walnuts, and oats. Don't eat foods high in protein or sugar before bedtime and don't watch television. Practice relaxation techniques and resolve worries of the day before heading to bed.
Night Eating DisorderOnly a few people suffer from night eating disorder or NED. Of this small percentage of the population, the majority of sufferers are obese. Through recent studies, researchers have also found that the condition occurs more frequently to women than to men. Those who are diagnosed with the syndrome have similar experiences. The person wakes up in the morning with little appetite. The lack of hunger may last throughout the day, but because the individual isn't eating very much, she becomes increasingly anxious and stressed as the hours pass by. The lack of nutrition adversely affects her mood. Then as bedtime nears, the NED sufferer begins to crave snacks that are high in carbohydrates. The amount of calories that the individual eats really won't be very much at one time. However, the individual finds herself returning to the kitchen frequently so that the calories add up. Someone with NED may even wake up during the night from hunger. This person craves food to go back to sleep. Though cynics might scoff at the idea that people actually have to eat to go to sleep, medical researchers claim that changes in various hormone levels have convinced them that night eating disorder is a legitimate medical condition. NED isn't just a bad habit that can be overcome with willpower.
Not only isn't NED a bad habit, neither is it a simple case of insomnia. For one thing, researchers find it relevant that NED sufferers choose to eat foods that are high in carbohydrates. Eating such foods helps increase the levels of a hormone called serotonin in the brain. Scientists know that this is a hormone that helps people fall asleep when tired. Because the individual is subconsciously choosing carbohydrates, it's almost as if the person's body knows what is needed to get rest. Additionally, researchers have made another interesting finding while conducting their night eating disorder studies. People who suffer from NED have trouble with another hormone that suppresses the appetite of someone who is asleep. This hormone isn't at its proper levels for individuals suffering from NED. Because of this, the person wakes up hungry and needs to munch on snacks so that she can go back to sleep. Because the individual has eaten so much during the night, however, she isn't hungry in the morning and the cycle begins again. Not getting a good's night rest, then, leads to problems in the daytime hours. The person may be moody or agitated. NED may not be as well-known as other disorders, such as anorexia, bingeing, and bulimia. But it appears to be as legitimate as these other conditions that receive much more recognition.
Centuries ago, a psalmist wrote: "My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber" (Psalm 121:2-3). Individuals who suffer from night eating disorder can find comfort in knowing that even in the darkest night that God is awake and listening to prayers for relief from such troubles. The sufferers also can be thankful that recent medical studies have given a name to what troubles them. No longer can these people be accused of willful misbehavior and unhealthy habits. Thanks to diligent medical research, help is now available to them. A person who believes she suffers from NED should contact her physician for a medical diagnosis. The process for diagnosing the condition often begins by making an appointment with a sleep lab. The patient will spend at least one night in the lab hooked up to equipment designed to monitor the brain's activity. Bloodwork will probably be ordered, too. Once a proper diagnosis has been made, medication that helps with hormone levels may be prescribed. However, those who are diagnosed with night eating disorder are often warned against taking sleeping pills. That type of medication appears to create additional problems for the patient. The goal is to break the hunger cycle so that a proper night's slumber can be enjoyed.
Some people may be diagnosed as having a related syndrome known as nocturnal sleep-related eating disorder (NS-RED). This differs in that the person's condition is related to other sleeping disorders, for example, sleepwalking. Someone with NS-RED may actually get up during the night and fix an entire meal. Then the individual eats the food that has been prepared. But in the morning, the person has no recollection of their nocturnal activities. Not all sleepwalkers engage in such culinary endeavors, but for those who do, treatment needs to be sought. As stated earlier, those who are already obese often suffer from night eating disorder. The syndrome causes an additional weight gain and may lead to the onset of type 2 diabetes. This is why it's so important to get a proper medical diagnosis.
While medication that adjusts hormone levels often helps alleviate the symptoms of night eating disorder, other types of treatments are also available. For example, a patient may be given a prescription for medications that alleviate stress and anxiety. The physician will most certainly advise the patient to limit or eliminate his intake of alcohol and caffeine. Of course, this is good advice for just about anyone, even though it can be difficult to break a habit of having a cup of coffee first thing in the morning or a cup of tea in the middle of the afternoon. Counseling and therapy may also help patients with night eating disorder overcome the syndrome. Patients can be taught techniques for releasing pent-up stress and anxiety that doesn't include food.