Night eating syndrome
Night eating syndrome is diagnosed when patients struggle to fall asleep or return to sleep without eating. This is different than “sleep eating” which is under the “parasomnia” umbrella and means that the patient is asleep while eating. During night eating, patients are awake and making a conscious choice to eat. This can occur in patients who are struggling with difficulty falling asleep or returning to sleep and using food for comfort or support. While many might think of babies first, as an example of this problem (i.e., they are quite dependent on feeds for sleep), in clinic, we also see older kids and adults with this problem as well. Those who do not consume enough daytime calories (e.g., kids with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder - ADHD on a stimulant with suppressed daytime appetite; or those on a diet), can be at risk for night eating syndrome. Likewise, when night eating is occurring, daytime appetite is not as high, less calories are then consumed and nighttime events are perpetuated. When working with these patients, we often start with recommending three scheduled meals and ensuring adequate daytime caloric intake and then work on the underlying difficulty with falling asleep or returning to sleep using evidence-based behavioral interventions.