We’re all guilty of skipping breakfast and telling ourselves we’ll eat more at dinner to make up for it.
But if you find yourself eating most of your daily food intake in the evening, or waking up for a night time snack more often than normal, then you could suffer from Night Eating Syndrome (NES).
NES is a condition that combines two key things, overeating at night time whilst also suffering with sleep problems.
You may eat a lot after certain hours of the evening, have trouble sleeping, and you may also wake up in the middle of the night and need to munch on some grub.
While NES isn’t considered a life-threatening condition, it could cause health problems down the line such as weight gain, insomnia and mental health conditions, if it’s left untreated.
Martin Seeley, Sleep Expert and CEO of Mattressnextday, told Metro.co.uk about NES and how to tackle it.
What causes NES?
Martin said: ‘It’s not exactly clear what causes it, however some experts have noted that it could be related to issues with the sleep-wake cycle or hormonal.
‘You are more likely to have NES if you are obese or have another eating disorder, furthermore, those with a history of mental health complications such as anxiety or depression, or those who have a history of substance abuse are also likely to suffer with NES.
‘It’s thought that NES affects one in 100 people, and if you are overweight, there’s a one in ten chance you have it.’
What are the symptoms?
If you have NES, then you may be eating a quarter of your daily calorie intake after dinner, or/ and you may wake up at night at least twice a week to eat.
You may also suffer with Night time eating syndrome if you have at least three of the below:
- An almost overwhelming urge to eat between dinner and sleep
- Waking up to eat
- Decreased appetite during the day
- Eating many calories at night
- Insomnia for four or five nights per week
- No appetite in the morning
- Depression or anxiety
‘Night eating syndrome is different from having a binge eating disorder, as with binge eating, you’re more likely to eat a lot at a single sitting, whereas if you have NES you are more likely to eat smaller amounts throughout the evening and into the night,’ said Martin.
How can I prevent NES?
You may not be able to completely prevent NES, but you can take the right steps to improve your health and get a good nights’ sleep.
Practice good sleep hygiene
‘Practising good sleep hygiene is imperative for ensuring a restful night’s sleep,’ said Martin.
‘You should avoid sugary foods too late in the day, caffeine should be avoided if possible, and if not try to limit your intake and do not have any after early afternoon.
‘Ensure your bedroom temperature is a comfortable temperature for you. Your bed and bed linens should also be warm, comfortable, and supportive.
‘Have a good night time wind down routine, read, take a hot bath, get rid of any electronics and try and get yourself sleepy.
‘If you feel the urge to eat, try and suppress this by having a glass of water or a hot tea.’
Choose healthy foods
‘Make sure you only have healthy foods in the cupboards to avoid any unnecessary snacking, nine times out of 10 if unhealthy foods are at home you are more likely to eat, whereas ensuring you do not have anything bad you are more likely to avoid these certain foods,’ said Martin.
‘Getting rid of foods that are high in fat and sugar can help you avoid indulging in them at night.
‘Try and eat a healthy and balanced diet during the day, eat plenty of fruits and veggies and try to drink two litres of water per day to stay hydrated and also suppress any unwanted snacking appetite.’
Manage your mental health
Try to manage any stress or anxiety you may feel with things such as yoga, meditation and breathing exercises.
Martin said: ‘You may want to look into counselling or therapy which will be able to help you manage your emotions and relationship with food as well as improving your overall mood.
‘Try and take your attention away from snacking or needing to eat at night by keeping busy, see friends, go on a nice walk, or go to the gym.’
Stay active during the day
‘It’s no secret that regular exercise and physical activity during the day helps improve sleep quality at night as you are tired and feel you need the sleep,’ he said.
‘So partaking in daily exercise, whether that’s a short walk or a high intensity workout, you are giving yourself a greater chance of having a restful nights sleep.’
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