Night Eater Syndrome: causes, symptoms and treatment of this eating disorder

Night Eater Syndrome: causes, symptoms and treatment of this eating disorder

We analyzed this disorder that consists of eating large amounts of food at night.

The best known Eating Disorders (ED) are anorexia and bulimia, but in recent years the possibility of including new disorders in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) is being considered.

One of them is the Night Eater Syndrome, which together with Binge Eating Disorder (which is included in the DSM-V) predominates in obese patients, although they can also develop in patients with normal weight.

One of the main characteristics of this disorder is that the person who suffers from it ingests a large amount of calories after dinner, even waking up at night to eat. During the morning, he presents morning anorexia, that is, he practically does not eat; and for the rest of the day, until nightfall, eat few calories. Night Eater Syndrome (NES) causes serious health problems, so it is necessary to treat it as soon as possible.

Night Eating Syndrome

Important Characteristics & symptoms of Night Eater Syndrome

In this disorder, the individual eats little throughout the day because heavy consumption comes after the night, with the consequence that they appear overweight and sleep disturbances.

Important Factors

Nutrition experts recommend that the daily intake should be divided into five meals. Breakfast and lunch should be strong meals, contributing between them 50-60% of the daily calorie consumption. The mid-morning “snack” and the afternoon snack should contribute 10-15% each and dinner 20%.

Individuals suffering from nocturnal eater syndrome can eat at least 50 present of calories at night, causing a decompensating with respect to these recommendations.


Night Eater Syndrome is characterized by the following symptoms:

• Nocturnal hyperplasia: They consume at least 25% of their daily calories after dinner. These foods are usually rich in carbohydrates (such as sweets, pastries, pasta or rice).
• Morning anorexia: Individuals with NES eat little or no eating at breakfast.
• Sleep disturbances: They suffer from insomnia or frequently wake up in the middle of the night to eat at least three days a week.


There is not much research on this disorder, but in the different analyses carried out in some studies there appears to be a modification of the neuroendocrine pattern (for example, cortisol, Pituitary Adrenal Hypothesis, melatonin and lepton) that participates in the regulatory function of circadian rhythms own that modulate various metabolic and psychological functions.

The high presence of cortisol during the night (but not during the day), the stress-related hormone, stands out, so one of the main causes would be the increase in night-time stress.

Other studies relate this disorder to environmental and sociocultural factors, as well as to a certain genetic predisposition. In addition, in some cases, the onset of this syndrome is related to anxiety or depression disorders, which can lead to an increase in food intake to reduce anxiety and depressive symptoms.


The treatment of this pathology may require a multidisciplinary intervention with different professionals: dietician, endocrinologist and psychologist or psychiatrist.

The dietician must design a diet according to the characteristics of the subject, the endocrinologist must monitor the hormonal characteristics of the patient, and the psychologist will work on aspects related to feelings, emotions or beliefs and the well-being of the person with Syndrome. Night dining room.

Regarding psychotherapy, Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy or Mindfulness can be of great help so that the patient can overcome the disorder. In addition, psychology can provide the patient with the tools to learn to cope with his problem and change his attitudes and habits towards food , and it will be necessary to overcome anxiety or depression.

In severe cases, drug treatment may be necessary. Certain medications such as SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) have been shown to be effective for treatment.

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