Some people have difficulty regulating when and how much they eat. Night eating syndrome (NES) is a form of disordered eating that may involve co-occurring health issues, including obesity, diabetes, and other eating disorders (EDs). Springer Nature states, “Current studies underscore the high comorbidity between NES and other eating disorders.” Exclusive Hawaii Rehab uses evidence-based and alternative holistic therapies to treat NES and co-occurring disorders.

What Is Night Eating Syndrome?

People with NES eat the majority of their meals after dark. Studies have shown that “Night eating syndrome is a type of eating disorder characterized by hyperphagia in the evening with 25% or more of daily caloric intake after dinner with not less than two nocturnal awakenings during the week to eat food.” Hyperphagia is a feeling of extreme, insatiable hunger. The syndrome is experienced by “1.5% in the general population of the United States.”

Individuals with NES may have co-occurring conditions, including:

  • Additional EDs
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity or morbid obesity
  • Depression, anxiety, or other mental health disorders

Some clients may have multiple co-occurring conditions requiring simultaneous treatments. For example, someone with major depressive disorder (MDD) and unrelated sleep disturbances may struggle with NES. Treatment programs must address all active and underlying health issues to ensure positive outcomes. Clients are given the information they need to heal and develop healthier routines surrounding food, eating, and sleeping. Clinicians use psychotherapy, prescription medications, nutritional coaching, and essential skills development to help clients build healthier routines and habits.

Risk Factors for Developing Night Eating Syndrome

Anyone with a high risk of developing an ED may experience NES. In addition, individuals with a history of binge eating disorder or other EDs may experience night eating in addition to other symptoms.

The exact cause of NES is unknown. However, some reported risk factors for developing the disorder include:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Family history of eating disorders or mental health disorders
  • Depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders
  • Sleep disorders or sleep disturbances, including circadian rhythm disorders

Sleepwalking may also play a role in some cases. According to the Journal of Clinical Medicine, researchers “found a relatively strong association between sleepwalking and nocturnal eating behavior.” The clinical team at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab guides clients through identifying the underlying causes of disordered eating and provides tools for managing NES. Every treatment plan is tailored to each client’s unique needs and preferences.

Common Signs and Symptoms

The symptoms of NES typically occur late at night and when others are asleep, making it difficult for friends or family to recognize the symptoms of disordered eating. However, some potential signs of NES include:

  • Food disappearing overnight
  • Significant and unexplained weight gain
  • Waking up to eat after going to bed for the night
  • Loss or decrease in appetite during the day
  • Eating while sleepwalking

Individuals with NES eat a significant portion of their daily caloric intake after dark, making them more likely to gain weight.

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Health Side Effects of Night Eating Syndrome

The primary health issues caused by NES include co-occurring mental health disorders and issues related to extreme weight gain. According to Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, “The largest risk associated with NES is the occurrence of accompanying disorders and their consequences: obesity, binge eating disorder (BED), bulimia nervosa, affective disorders, or sleep disorders.”

Health side effects of untreated night eating syndrome include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol

The potential side effects vary considerably depending on a person’s general health and family medical history. Early intervention and treatment is the best way to reduce significant weight gain and avoid severe health side effects.

Experience True Healing

Our deeply-caring staff and the surrounding natural beauty offer an unparalleled healing experience.

Treatment Options at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab

The dedicated clinicians at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab are certified to treat primary and secondary EDs. Clients undergo a comprehensive assessment to ensure an accurate diagnosis. The care team collaborates with clients to help them develop a healthier connection with eating, food, and body image. Often, family therapy and psychoeducation are used to enhance the effectiveness of treatment. Individuals in treatment and their loved ones are given the resources and tools they need to manage NES and any co-occurring or underlying conditions.

Clients are gently guided through creating healthier eating routines as they go through treatment. The clinical team educates clients on the importance of proper nutrition and how to enhance their diet to improve mental and physical health. In addition, the care team teaches mindful eating to help clients better understand how to eat filling and nutritional meals during the day, reducing the risk of night eating.

How to Help a Loved One With Night Eating Syndrome

Friends and family may have a difficult time identifying if a loved one struggles with NES. However, if someone exhibits signs of potential EDs like NES, friends and family can help by doing the following:

  • Providing emotional support
  • Offering information about treatment programs
  • Providing practical support like transportation to medical appointments or childcare
  • Normalizing discussions about mental and physical health

Individuals who struggle with disordered eating are often unaware their behaviors are dangerous if left untreated. Clinicians at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab provide friends and family with information on EDs and intervention assistance.