The Consequences of Late-Night Eating

late-night eatingFrom restaurant-sized meal portions to those ever-present office sweets, there are a number of forces working against you on a daily basis when you’re trying to weight loss. But what about those temptations that creep up at night?

Studies have long documented the effects of late-night snacking, which can significantly curb weight loss and contribute to a slower metabolism. Night eating syndrome (NES) is a rare but increasingly accepted medical condition that can disrupt the body’s natural rhythms and wreak havoc on your health.

NES patients typically wake to eat three nights per week or more, and they tend to consume about 25 percent of their caloric intake during the night. While it’s estimated that only 1 to 1.5 percent of the general population experiences NES, up to 42 percent of bariatric patients may suffer from the condition. Night eating syndrome is associated with chemical imbalances in the brain that are linked to anxiety and depression, which may be exacerbated by the embarrassment that surrounds overnight eating.

So how is NES treated? Exercising more often and more intensely can help with issues like restlessness and insomnia, which contribute to overnight eating. Staying mindful of snacking and portions is also crucial, and keeping a food journal can help you track calories in versus calories out.

When it comes to weight loss, Dr. Dirk recommends curbing your caloric intake after 8 or 9 PM to keep your metabolism functioning optimally. Portion control during the day will help establish healthy habits, and choosing nutritious snacks will keep you satisfied well into the night for sound sleep with fewer disruptions.

Lack of sleep can contribute to weight gain even without NES, and the combined effects of disrupted rest and additional calories is enough to thwart many weight-loss efforts. If you’re experiencing NES, remember that seeking professional help is often the first step to achieving a healthy body.