Night Eating and Sleep

by Dr. Carol Solomon

Not sleeping well can be not only an unpleasant experience, but influences night eating. People with night eating syndrome (NES) seem to get the same amount of sleep, but wake up more often and have less efficient sleep. They often complain of not feeling rested.

Many people worry that once they are awake, they won’t be able to get back to sleep without eating. They worry about not feeling good the next day, feeling fatigued and the consequences of not getting a good night’s rest.

Eating at night tends to be a way they convince themselves to help them get back to sleep. These night eaters tend to have all-or-nothing beliefs, such as “if I lose sleep, it will ruin the next day.”

Relaxation and imagery have been shown to help people with night eating syndrome to fall asleep and stay asleep more easily. It can also improve sleep efficiency.  Sleep-related habits and how easily you are able to fall back asleep without eating late at night can be affected as well.

1. First, work on your ability to relax and unwind at night. Night eaters tend to find things to worry about, including getting a good night’s sleep.

The more you think about not getting a good night’s sleep, the more it seems likely to happen (self-fulfilling prophecy). Use the Night Eating CD to assist in relaxation.

2. Next, keep realistic expectations about your sleep. If you know that you tend to wake up at a certain hour, accept that as normal. Most people awaken several times per night. The more you worry, the harder it is to get back to sleep.

3. Don’t blame all of your problems on poor sleep and night eating. While you may be unhappy about it, there are probably other factors that contribute to the problem.

You may need to work to decrease your overall stress levels and increase social support.

4. Don’t over focus on sleep, or give it too much importance. This only serves to increase the night eater’s anxiety, which is already high.

5. Adapt your daytime routine to accommodate poor sleep. That is, you may need to adjust your routines, ask for support, and/or do your most demanding activities when you have the most energy.

6. Try to avoid using substances like caffeine to make up for a poor night’s sleep, especially in the afternoon or evening hours. This habit can cause uncomfortable side affects, such as headaches and irritability, which only adds to your stress. It can also disrupt sleep if taken too late in the evening.

7. Avoid alcohol consumption if you want to get a good night’s sleep. Processing of alcohol in the body gives off substances that disrupt sleep. While it may help you to relax and fall off to sleep initially, it often leads to waking up, even for people who are not eating late at night.

Reggie Lacross January 18, 2010 at 4:11 pm

I have all of of these night eating problems. My father and 2 brothers also suffer from night eating. My Dad started taking zoloft before going to bed and he no longer gets up yo eat.

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