It’s called “night eating syndrome.” We’ve all done it…getting up at night and raiding the fridge, but when it happens regularly, our health is at great risk.
Night eating syndrome is not just an eating disorder. It is also a mood and sleep disorder-three for one. This complex condition involves when we eat, what we eat, and why we eat, encompassing food issues, sleep issues, and psychological issues, all wrapped into one, each affecting the other.
Night eaters skip breakfast, most likely lunch too, and start eating the bulk of their calories from supper on into the night. The average night eater suffers from insomnia and can get up 10 – 12 times a night, eating something, half of those times.
And this is not about simply indulging in a bad habit.
It all comes down to an imbalance of hormone levels, making it difficult to break the cycle.
A night eater…
- Struggles with losing weight
- Feels like the more they restrict calories, the more they gain.
- Skips meals, particularly breakfast.
- Eats the bulk of their daily calories after dinner and during the night.
- Can’t stop eating once they’ve had supper.
- Gets up at night and eats, so that they can fall asleep.
- Hormones are associated with this syndrome.
- Night eaters have low levels of melatonin-a hormone that plays a role in the body’s internal clock, maintaining the rhythmic cycle of sleeping and wakening.
- Low levels of melatonin may interfere with sleep patterns, leading to insomnia and frequent wakening.
- Night eaters have high levels of cortisol-a stress hormone, when in excess, interferes with the running of the body.
- Higher cortisol levels are found in psychological disorders such as depression, anxiety, and when a person is under the conditions of stress.
- High cortisol levels increase appetite and have been found to cause obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol, increasing the risk for heart attack, stroke, and osteoporosis.
- Night eaters have lower levels of the leptin – a hormone that regulates appetite, especially during the night when we are usually sleeping.
- Low levels of leptin may increase night time appetite, leading to the consumption of even more calories, compounding the problem.
- Night eaters may have an underlying mood disorder and may be trying to self-medicate with food.
- Eating carbohydrates, which high levels of cortisol makes us crave, raises serotonin, a feel good hormone, which helps us sleep.
- Night eaters start out the day without food, and as the day wears on, their mood deteriorates. By the time night falls, anxiety and depression will be at an all time high, and eating will begin in large quantities.
Signs You May Be A Night Eater
- You have no appetite in the morning and may not feel like eating until late afternoon.
- You eat too much supper, especially carbohydrates, and on into the night, because you are ravenous.
- You feel stressed, anxious, and probably depressed. There is a lot of guilt associated with gaining weight and eating at night when no one is around.
- You are becoming obese. The pattern of deprivation during the day and over compensation at night, leads to weight gain and eventually obesity.
- You wake up a lot at night and eat a snack to go back to sleep.
How To Stop Eating At Night
- Eat breakfast, even if you are not hungry. Have something with protein in it…eggs, lean meat, yogurt.
- Eating breakfast will make you hungry for lunch. Have some high fiber food and lean protein.
- By the time supper comes, you may not be hungry but eat anyway, only not very much. Again, have a little protein, maybe some soup, or a piece of fruit. Don’t have any dessert because the rush of carbohydrates may trigger the cycle again.
- Don’t eat three hours before you go to bed.
- Raise your melatonin levels. Brainwave entrainment, a clinically proven technology, changes brainwave frequency by introducing audio or visual pulses to the brain. The brain follows the stimulus and changes your state of mind. Certain frequencies release natural melatonin from the brain and can be accessed by entrainment and altering your brainwaves.
- Manage your stress-the higher your stress levels, the more likely you’ll go back to night eating. Brainwave entrainment has been shown to decrease stress levels and the release of stress hormones, with great efficiency. While curbing cortisol, entrainment will cause your brain to release serotonin, a hormone that makes you feel happier.
- If you can’t get a handle on your symptoms, seek professional help.
Without addressing all three of the disorders associated with night eating syndrome, eating, mood, and sleep, it may be difficult to overcome the pattern of nightly eating.
Brainwave entrainment is one resource that could help break the cycle.
Your quality of sleep will improve, your cravings for carbohydrates will be diminished, and your mood will be elevated.
And before you know it, the pounds will start dropping off.