Are You a Victim of Night Eating Syndrome?

Night eating syndrome is a condition where the patient binge eats late during the night. The patient wakes up 3 to 4 times in the night and consumes biscuits, chips, cakes or other high-calorie foods.These foods give a lot of comfort to the individuals. This has little to do with hunger and can lead to improper sleep, stress, and obesity. Hormone imbalance, emotional eating, anxiety and depression can be the reasons behind such binging during the night. It is at best can be described as a eating disorder.

According to a research study, 28 percent patients who undergo gastric bypass surgery for weight loss develop symptoms of night eating syndrome. There are currently no official diagnostic criteria for dealing with this condition. The eating disorder itself is awaiting its inclusion in the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
The existing diagnosis is controversial and its validity is questioned. 1-2 percent of people are affected by this disorder. Though people from all ages are at equal risks of developing this condition, young women, especially in their teens are reportedly diagnosed with it very often.

What Causes Night Eating Syndrome?

People eat during the night for a variety of reasons. Depression, anxiety or mood problems may cause few people to eat. Hormone imbalance i.e., fluctuations of the appetite-controlling hormones such as leptin and melatonin can also make people to eat during the night. Some people also eat food to be able to sleep better.

Symptoms of Night Eating Syndrome:

  • Uncontrollable desire to eat during the night
  • Waking up in the night to eat high-calorie food
  • Lack of appetite in the morning
  • Skipping breakfast
  • Having the first meal of the day after several hours of waking
  • Irregular eating pattern during the day
  • Eating while sleeping and being unaware of it
  • Visiting the fridge or closet for carbohydrate food frequently with breaks in between, as seen in 70 percent of the patients
  • Difficulty in sleeping
  • Sleepiness during the day
  • Sleep walk
  • Guilt after eating
  • Eating over half of daily recommended calories after dinner
  • Stress and Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Low self esteem

For the condition to be established, the above mentioned signs should persist for more than two months or more.
Although people with this disorder do not overeat during the day, they may eat high-calorie food during the night. In this way, they might be eating 500 calories in excess. This can lead to obesity.

Treating Night Eating Syndrome:

Researchers found out that few people experienced a decrease in the hormone levels of leptin and melatonin and an increase in the stress hormone cortisol while experiencing the disorder. In such cases, treating the hormone imbalance can help in decreasing the problem.
If this syndrome is caused due to anxiety, depression or stress, counseling or psychotherapy may be given to treat this syndrome.
Night eating syndrome is a clinical disorder. If you experience this problem, do consult your doctor for proper treatment, as this disorder can result in obesity and can affect the performance and alertness during the day.

How Inclusion of Night Eating Syndrome into the DSM Would be Beneficial?

The DSM is a set of guidelines published by the American Psychiatric Association. It is followed by physicians across the United States and other parts of the world to classify, diagnose and treat mental disorders. Its fifth edition is under preparation due to be published by 2013.
Physicians can better diagnose the symptoms of night eating syndrome, after the inclusion of the disorder into DSM. This can lead to early commencement of the treatment as well.
Many health insurance companies cover ailments and disorders based on the fact that whether they are included in the DSM guidelines or not. Inclusion of night eating syndrome into this manual can help people suffering from this disorder receive the much needed financial assistance for treatment.
Amidst large number of uncertainties pertaining to the disease, the loved ones of these patients can atleast be relieved from the fact that the expanses of this disorder would be taken care of by the insurence agencies.

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