Eating Syndrome

November 12, 2012

Eating Syndrome

Symptoms of this night sleeping disorder include no appetite in the morning on waking and eat food through the night. Many people report having no memory of eating any food.

Night eating syndrome can be defined as a delayed intake of food in a 24 hour period, but still keeping to a regular sleeping and waking cycle. Decisive factors which play their part in this eating syndrome are eating approximately 25% of the daily calorie intake after supper and/or waking through the night approximately three times during a week. This syndrome causes damage to health and also disruption to people who suffer with this disorder. It was recognized about 50 years ago but it is only now becoming familiar to the medical profession. This syndrome can occur in males and females although some reports suggest it is more common in males.

Likely causes of this disorder show that people who eat at night have a higher level of serotonin transporters in their midbrain. These raised levels lead to a reduced postsynaptic serotonin transmission which causes damage and leads to the person not knowing when they have had enough to eat and also disrupts the 24 hour cycle.

Suffering from stress, depression and anxiety are associated with night eating syndrome. These are all emotions which are negative and added to that is the embarrassment and guilt connected to their eating pattern means the problem gets worse.

Many people have reported their night eating started when they were going through a stressful period. And these night eating behaviors were connected to suffering high levels of anxiety and comforting themselves when they were eating.

There is no clear cause for this eating syndrome. There has been research carried out which has suggested that it may be a hereditary illness. It may also be due to a hormonal imbalance which affects stress levels and sleep and in turn has an effect on sleeping and eating patterns.

Night eating syndrome is quite a new disorder and some members of the medical profession do not always recognize it. A study showed many patients experience a high dismissal rate and failure to recognize this disorder by medical staff. The symptoms and signs are often identified as a bad habit or another condition.

Night eating is now a recognized disorder and treatment is available. Encourage the sufferer to do more physical activities and be consistent with a program of exercise. Get them to keep a food diary and also record when they sleep, wake and their thoughts on how they feel about eating at night. Taking part in a sleep study may be able to identify any other disruptive sleep patterns, e.g. night terrors, sleep apnea, snoring and restless legs. It may be the person requires psychotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy. These treatments are very valuable to suffers who experience high levels of anxiety, depression or stress.

Research is at its very early stages on the benefits of medications for night eating syndrome. But there are some studies which recommend using Zoloft (sertraline) which is an SSRI drug that may offer an effective treatment.

Dieticians regularly screen for people who snack at night time but they may not expect people to eat overnight. For the people who suffer from night eating syndrome it can be embarrassing to talk about this behavior. But it is important to discuss this with a medical profession and aim to resolve it by getting to the root cause.


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