Right Path Counseling has a team of eating disorder therapists on Long Island that assist those that struggle with conditions like anorexia, bulimia, and more. But some forms of disordered eating are harder to notice, and not every patient that has these challenges will even know they have a problem.
One example is known as “night eating syndrome.” Night eating syndrome is considered one of the “Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorders” from the DSM-V, but what makes it especially difficult for patients is that many do not realize this is a condition at all.
What is Night Eating Syndrome?
Our bodies are actually designed to experience hunger during very specific times of day. We have internal measurements that are supposed to tell us when to eat, whether we need to eat, and how much to eat. When these are working properly, we usually eat about 2-3 times a day, and finish eating sometime around 6-7pm or so in the evening.
But some people find that they get hungry in the middle of the night. So hungry, in fact, that they either cannot sleep or wake up feeling as though they need to eat. Sometimes, they may wake up as many as two or three times to eat, each time grabbing a quick snack before going back to sleep.
This type of disordered eating often goes untreated. That is because most people with the condition do not necessarily see this as a problem:
- They’re hungry.
- They eat a small amount of food (usually a small snack).
- They go back to sleep.
It can seem almost normal, because there is usually no excessive eating or severe insomnia. Often, it takes only a small snack when a person wakes up hungry, and they can go back to bed comfortably.
However, this type of eating can lead to many issues:
- During the sleep cycle, your body is not equipped to process calories as efficiently.
- Waking up multiple times in the night disrupts your ability to get a good night’s rest.
- Night eating seems to cause feelings of anxiety and depression when the person wakes, though why this occurs is not entirely clear.
Because these are added calories that also process more slowly, those with night eating syndrome tend to suffer from much higher levels of obesity. They may also have self-esteem or body image issues that relate to their obesity, not necessarily their night eating. The disrupted sleep also leads to a poorer quality of life, and can lead to issues with stress management, anxiety, and depression.
Treating Night Eating
Night eating responds well to psychological intervention. Even though night eating often doesn’t sound like it is related to mental health, there are connections between the way someone experiences hunger and food, and their tendency to desire eating at night. At Right Path Counseling, our eating disorder therapists can help you with your night eating challenges, or any type of disordered eating. Please call us to get started.