What is the cause of Night Eating Syndrome?

Sometimes you feel the urge to eat late at night, well past your dinner time. You eat without control and feel guilt later due to your misdemeanour.

Attention: This could be Night Eating Disorder (NES).

NES is linked with obesity and mental health disorders. However, due to a lack of studies on the matter (when compared with other conditions like depression and schizophrenia), there isn’t enough evidence to clinically state the connection. Other reasons are cited by psychologists, which can cause NES in an individual. Therefore, if you feel those sudden pangs of hunger at night that you deem innocuous, you should be cautious as you might be suffering from NES.

As stated before, NES can be caused due to several issues. Let’s explore a few of them:

Genetics can play a role in you getting NES

If your parents used to binge frequently on nightly snacks, you might also like to do the same. There is a gene called PER1 that influences our body clock. If PER1 is defective, we are more vulnerable to NES than others.

Depression and anxiety can also cause NES

Depression and anxiety are mood disorders that can trigger NES in many individuals. When you are not feeling right, you have a higher propensity to eat at night. It is easier to fall into the nocturnal eating trap and start believing that eating can help you overcome the negative thoughts that are clouding your mind and preventing you from sleeping.

Injudicious dieting in the daytime

Using a smart dieting plan according to correct instructions effective in losing weight. However, there are many individuals, especially the ones who are just starting out, who implement dieting plans incorrectly and end up increasing their desire to eat during the night.

Substance abuse disorder can trigger NES

People who abuse narcotics like cannabis, cocaine and heroin are susceptible to developing nightly eating disorders. Although compared to their primary affliction, i.e., substance abuse, NES is not such a big issue; however, it contributes to the overall degradation of well-being.

NES is identified by observing the patient’s behaviour and spotting the signs of night eating syndrome. If you are eating post-dinner at least twice a week for three months or over, you probably have NES, and you need to see a doctor.

One of the tests that physicians do to detect NES is called polysomnography. The test measures blood oxygen levels, breathing and heart rate, and brain waves to ascertain whether a person suffers from NES.

But before visiting a health centre for the test mentioned above, it is vital to observe the systems that might indicate the presence of NES:

  • 1.  Inability to sleep for four or five nights a week
  • 2.  Strong notion that eating is mandatory to get to sleep or return to sleep
  • 3.  Worsening depression during the night-time
  • 4.  Reduced appetite in the morning
  • 5.  An uncontrollable desire to eat between dinner and sleep

If you are diagnosed with Night Eating Syndrome (NES), you can get treatment for night eating syndrome under the supervision of a professional medical health expert. The treatment of NES varies depending on the severity of the disorder and its root cause. Below are some methods that healthcare experts use for treatment:

CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy): CBT is a form of therapy that is mostly used for treating mental health illnesses like anxiety and depression. It is very effective in treating NES, especially when the issue is due to psychological problems rather than genetics. In CBT, the patient is taught coping skills that help them get through the day without indulging in nocturnal feasts.

Treatment with Antidepressants: Antidepressants are known to improve a patient’s mood during the night, preventing them from indulging in excessive eating during the night.

Treatment with Melatonin: Melatonin is a hormone produced by our body in response to darkness. Some people are melatonin deficient, which can cause nightly eating adventures. By providing melatonin in the right dose, it is possible to treat NES.

NES might seem like an innocuous problem at the first glimpse, but it can impact your life in the worst way possible. There are countless problems that can trigger as a result of NES like obesity, depression, and bad digestion, which can completely throw your life off-balance. Therefore, it is important to understand what causes NES and seek treatment at the earliest to ensure sound mental and physical health. 

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