The Night Eating Syndrome Report: The Basics

The Night Eating Syndrome Report are a series of articles that talk about a horrible disorder with serious physical, mental, and social consequences for people who are suffering from it. This series will cover all the aspects of this disorder and give some recommendations for people who are affected by it.

Considering that around 34% of adults in the United States are obese today, we have to understand that this brings different ramifications to the table. It is true that being obese has medical and physical consequences for the person as well as the society, however, we cannot neglect the psychosocial consequences either.

This is the reason night eating syndrome has got increased recognition in the past few years. Around 1,5% of the general population suffers from it. Common symptoms include: no wish to eat in the morning (morning anorexia), increased eating in the night (evening polyphagia) and/or eating binges when one wakes up (nocturnal eating), as well as insomnia.

 

Definition

I gave a general outline for night eating syndrome, but here are the proposed diagnostic criteria and symptoms for this disorder. These have been proposed at the first International Night Eating Symposium:

  • There is a significant intake of food in the evening and/or nighttime. This means that at least 25% of food is consumed after the evening meal and that at least two episodes of nocturnal eating happen
  • People can recall and are aware of these eating occurrences
  • Night eating syndrome is associated with significant distress or impairment in functioning
  • This pattern of eating has to be maintained for at least 3 months
  • The disorder itself is not a consequence of any medication, medical disorder, or another psychiatric disorder
  • The symptoms that need to be present for it to be clinically diagnosed have to include at least three of the following:
  •   A lack of desire to eat in the morning – breakfast is not eaten on four or more occasions per week.
  •   Sleep onset or insomnia are present more than four times a week
  •   A belief that one must eat to go back to sleep is present
  •   Mood is depressed and/or worsens in the evening

 

How does it look like?

So how exactly would a day for someone who suffers from this disorder look like?

They usually eat a much bigger amount of calories after the last evening meal, they wake up more often, and are more likely to eat when they wake up during the night. Bread in general, sandwiches, and sweets, are different food items that they usually eat during these episodes.

Night eating syndrome also brings a low sleep efficiency with it, and it usually begins during early adulthood, with the onset being long-lasting sometimes.

Some people experience remissions or more intense phases of this disorder in a cyclic fashion, this is coincided with life stress events that I will also talk about in the second part of the night eating syndrome report.

 

Statistics

There is a good chance that night eating disorder has a genetic component due to the fact that people who suffer from this disorder are 4.9x more likely to have a first degree relative who will be diagnosed with it too.

As I’ve mentioned before, around 1.5% of the general population has night eating syndrome, however, when examining different clinical populations, here is what was found out:

  • Between 9% and 14% of people in weight loss studies suffer from it
  • Around 6% people who have been in a sleep disorder center have it
  • Around 12% of psychiatric outpatients have it
  • Around 15% of morbidly obese adults have it
  • Around 37% of women who binge eat at least once per week have it
  • Around 15% of female patients with binge eating disorder have it
  • Between 42% and 8% of candidates for gastric bypass have it.

 

Take home messages

So, to put it short for this first article – night eating syndrome is a disorder that affects around 1,5% of the population.

The general symptoms for this disorder would be not eating in the morning, eating at least 25% of your daily caloric intake after your last evening meal, and waking up in the middle of the night and eating on these occasions.

It probably involves a genetic component, can also be accompanied by bad sleeping patterns, is influenced by life stress events, and can be accompanied by other disorders that are mentioned in the next article.

 

The Night Eating Syndrome Report

Night eating syndrome: A critical review of the literature (2012), Clinical Psychology Review

About Author

Sebastijan Veselic

BSc in Psychology, currently doing a MSc in Cognitive science. Pursuing and interested in many academic and scientific disciplines and topics, as well as some less so. These include, but are not limited to, cute cats on the internet.

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