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Nocturnal Dining Syndrome: causes, symptoms and treatment of this eating disorder

Nocturnal Dining Syndrome: causes, symptoms and treatment of this eating disorder

July 19, 2024

The most well-known Eating Disorders (AEDs) are anorexia and bulimia, but in recent years the possibility of including new disorders in the DSM is being considered. (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).

One of them is the Nocturnal Dining Syndrome , which together with Binge Eating Disorder (this one is included in the DSM-V) predominates in obese patients, although they can also develop in patients with normal weight.

One of the main characteristics of this disorder is that the person who suffers it ingests a large amount of calories after dinner, even waking up at night to eat . During the morning, presents morning anorexia, that is, practically does not eat; and during the rest of the day, until the night comes, eat few calories. The Night Dining Syndrome (NES) causes serious health problems, so it is necessary to treat it as soon as possible.

Characteristics and symptoms of the Night Dining Syndrome

In this disorder, the individual eats little throughout the day because the big consumption arrives after night, with the consequence that he appears overweight and sleep disturbances.

Some data

Nutrition experts recommend that the daily intake should be distributed in five meals . Breakfast and lunch should be strong meals, providing between 50-60% of the daily calorie intake between them. The mid-morning "snack" and the snack must contribute 10-15% each and dinner 20%.

Individuals suffering from the nocturnal eater syndrome can get to eat at least 50 percent of calories at night , causing a decompensation regarding these recommendations.


The Night Dining Syndrome It is characterized by presenting the following symptoms :

  • Morning Anorexia : Individuals with NES do not eat or practically do not eat during breakfast.
  • Nightly hyperphagia : Consume at least 25% of the daily calories after dinner. These foods are usually rich in carbohydrates (such as sweets, pastries, pasta or rice).
  • Alterations of the dream : They suffer insomnia or wake up frequently in the middle of the night to eat at least three days a week.

Causes of the Night Dining Syndrome

There is not much research on this disorder, but in the different analyzes carried out in some studies there seems to be a modification of the neuroendocrine pattern (for example, cortisol, pituitary adrenal pituitary, melatonin and leptin) that participates in the regulatory function of own circadian rhythms that modulate various metabolic and psychological functions.

Stresses the high presence of cortisol at night (but not during the day), the hormone related to stress, so one of the main causes would be the increase in nighttime stress.

Other studies, They associate this disorder with environmental and sociocultural factors, as well as a certain genetic predisposition . In addition, in some cases, the onset of this syndrome is related to anxiety disorders or depression, which can lead to an increase in dietary intake to reduce anxious and depressive symptoms.

Treatment of the Night Dining Syndrome

The treatment of this pathology may require a multidisciplinary intervention with different professionals: dietitian, endocrine and psychologist or psychiatrist .

The dietitian should design a diet according to the characteristics of the subject, the endocrinologist should follow up on the hormonal characteristics of the patient, and the psychologist will work on the aspects related to the feelings, emotions or beliefs and the well-being of the person with Syndrome Night Dining

Regarding psychotherapy, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy or Mindfulness can be of great help for the patient to overcome the disorder. Further, psychology can provide the patient with the tools to learn how to face their problem and change their attitudes and habits towards food , and it will be necessary to overcome anxiety or depression.

In severe cases, pharmacological treatment may be necessary. Certain medications, such as SSRI (Selective Reuptake Inhibitors Serotonin) have shown their efficacy for treatment.

6 Types of Eating Disorders (July 2024).

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