We’ve all been there. Rooting around the fridge in the wee small hours. For most of us, nocturnal snacking is a decision rather than a need. If I go and make a sandwich at 2 AM it’s because I want one, not because I fear I’ll be far too hungry to fall back asleep again if I don’t.
However, for those suffering from Night Eating Syndrome (NES) late night trips to the fridge are a compulsion. First observed in 1955 by Albert Stunkard, M.D., NES is classified in the most recent edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders under the “Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder” section. Not to be confused with Nocturnal Eating Syndrome, in which sufferers are asleep and have no recollection of the incident, those with NES are awake and very much aware of their late-night food endeavors.
NES sufferers typically have no appetite in the morning and don’t eat breakfast, ending up taking in a paltry one third of their daily calorie intake by 6 PM compared to the average person, while the control group studies had consumed almost seventy five percent. Come evening, usually between 8 PM and 6 AM, those with NES can consume around half their total calorie intake for that day. That’s a lot of eating in the dark.
Sufferers of NES are characterized by broken sleep and a belief that, unless they go and make themselves some cheese on toast or something, that they won’t be able to sleep again.