Nighttime Eating

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Q & A: Nighttime Eating

Q: One of my friends tells me that she wakes at night to eat. Isn’t this unusual, even for a person with an eating disorder?

A: About 1.5% of the general population engages in “nocturnal eating syndrome,” or NES. In one study at a sleep disorders center in Italy, 120 patients with NES were described. Most patients (slightly more than half were female) began eating compulsively after they awakened during the middle of non-REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Almost all of them had daytime eating disorders, too, and most also reported binge eating. In other studies, 10-25% of patients at obesity clinics also had NES, and 15% of binge-eaters also engaged in nocturnal eating. Another group of patients with NES (average age: 39 years), seen at a sleep disorders center in Minnesota, had been binge-eating at night for an average of 12 years. Medication helped them with nighttime eating and weight control.

Incidentally, these types of patients are different from those with the more common pattern of eating mostly during the evening and nighttime and who have little or no appetite in the morning or throughout the day.

Reprinted with permission from Eating Disorders Recovery Today
Summer 2002 Volume 1, Number 2
©2002 Gürze Books

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