Eating late at night can be the result of several causes: binge eating disorder (BED) and night eating syndrome (NES) are both diagnoses recognized by the DSM-5 that are associated with nighttime eating, but eating late at night is just as likely to be a consequence of dealing with emotions, hunger as a result of an overly restrictive diet during the day, or boredom and/or habit.
Whatever the cause, night time eating is linked to obesity and trouble sleeping. This makes night time eating especially problematic for patients trying to lose weight!
Eating late at night means the muscles in our body which help digest and metabolize food have to keep working when they should be resting. This can have a negative impact on your quality of sleep and even your ability to fall asleep.
Late night eating is a known cause of sleep disturbances in patients with NES: “NES may cause and/or trigger sleep disturbances. Likewise, insomnia and sleep disturbances may precede NES. Existing literature shows that patients with NES experience difficulties initiating and maintaining sleep. NES has also been associated with low sleep efficiency […] sleep problems in patients with NES are disrupted sleep from nocturnal eating episodes and insomnia. ” (1)
The impact on sleep can be made even worse if you are affected by things like heartburn and acid reflux, which can be exacerbated by lying down too quickly after eating.
Nighttime eating is thought to negatively impact metabolic health and body composition, and the data supports this conclusion. For example, a study which compared the metabolic response to an identical meal at different times of day, found the lowest metabolic response after eating at night.
Nighttime eating can result in consuming more calories than are needed, and tends to be from unhealthy sources. This can severely hamper one’s ability to lose weight and may even result in weight gain. “In fact, NES was first described among individuals with unsuccessful weight loss management” (1). Furthermore, “research conducted with overweight individuals entering a weight loss program showed that NES impaired weight loss management among obese individuals. ” The authors go on to highlight that it is important for a successful approach to weight loss to address night time eating.
A study conducted in Japan found a correlation between night time eating and elevated BMI, waist circumference, and a higher occurrence of metabolic syndrome. (2)
5-HTP – NES has been linked with serotonin transporter dysfunctions and it is known that low levels of serotonin can result in cravings, particularly for unhealthy “feel-good” foods such as carbohydrates.
You can learn more about 5-HTP and its mechanism of action in our white paper: https://www.legerepharm.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/EmotionalEating_5HTP.pdf
Quick-Fill – Quick-fill supplements expand in the stomach to create a physical feeling of fullness to help reduce snaking and overeating. Because these supplements don’t affect the nervous system, they will not negatively impact sleep.
1. Vander Wal J. S. (2012). Night eating syndrome: a critical review of the literature. Clinical psychology review, 32(1), 49–59. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2011.11.001
2. Yoshida, J., Eguchi, E., Nagaoka, K., Ito, T., & Ogino, K. (2018). Association of night eating habits with metabolic syndrome and its components: a longitudinal study. BMC public health, 18(1), 1366. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-018-6262-3
3. Kinsey, A. W., & Ormsbee, M. J. (2015). The health impact of nighttime eating: old and new perspectives. Nutrients, 7(4), 2648–2662. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu7042648