Night eating syndrome: Here’s all that you need to know about it

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Instead of giving in to these hunger pangs, you can distract yourself at night. (Source: Getty/Thinkstock)

It’s the middle of the night, and you have the strange urge to stuff yourself even though you’ve had your meal. So you saunter to the kitchen and fill yourself up. If this reads like something you do almost daily, or at least twice a week, you could be suffering from night eating syndrome or NES.

Here are some things that you must absolutely know, as NES is known to bring with it a tonne of side effects, one of them being obesity.

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What is NES?

The best way to find out if you have NES is to answer the following questions: do you lack appetite in the morning? Do you get hunger pangs between dinner and sleep? Do you suffer from insomnia four or five nights a week? Do you believe that eating is necessary for sleep or to get back to sleep? Are you in a sullen mood in the evenings?

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You may have NES if you answer yes for at least three of the aforementioned questions.

It should be noted that NES is different from binge eating disorder or BED, wherein you are likely to eat a lot in a single sitting. With NES, you tend to eat smaller amounts throughout the night.

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By keeping yourself hydrated throughout the day, you can fight NES. (Photo: Thinkstock Images)

What causes it? 

Doctors don’t have a conclusive answer yet. It could be related to issues with the sleep-wake cycle, or it could be hormonal. When there is an imbalance, the body craves for sugar and certain other junk foods. Psychological reasons like stress, anxiety, depression can cause NES too.

Studies show that you are more susceptible to NES if you are already struggling with obesity or have another eating disorder.

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What does it do to the body?

Goes without saying, midnight snacking disrupts the biological clock. If you eat during normal meal hours, the body processes the food naturally. Fats, lipids and cholesterol in your blood are absorbed by your liver, muscles and your other tissues. But, if you indulge in some night eating, fats are not broken down properly and they stay in the blood longer. The metabolism anyway slows down at night, affecting you heart, kidney, liver and other organs.

Can you stop it?

Yes, you can. By eating a balanced diet throughout the day, and by keeping yourself hydrated. Additionally, if you wake up at night, instead of heading straight to the kitchen, you can distract yourself by doing another activity.

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