Find out what the nocturnal eater syndrome is and what are the signs that reveal that you suffer from a “nocturnal hunger attack” to be able to find an effective solution to this eating disorder that can trigger obesity or weight gain, among other series of health problems.

This problem in eating is not only a habit that draws attention, but it is an eating disease that has already been identified as such, but that does not have the same scope or severity as bulimia or anorexia, but it does It can have an impact on being overweight or obese.

What is a nocturnal hunger attack?

The syndrome of the nocturnal eater is an eating behavior disorder that consists of a disorder in the temporal pattern of food intake: very little amount is consumed in the first third of the day and it is increased excessively during the night, in the form of small but frequent nocturnal intakes. You have a great lack of appetite during the morning and a huge appetite during dinner and at night.

It differs from bulimia in that there are no behaviors tending to eliminate what is eaten (vomiting, laxatives, diuretics,) and at the time of ingestion, which is nocturnal. In addition, in bulimia it is usually eaten based on binges, and in the disease that we are discussing, small and frequent snacks are used.

It must also be differentiated from the so-called binge-eating disorder, since it attempts to calm anxiety or euphoria is channeled through few but very copious meals, which also occur at any time of the day, and not only at night.

This derangement in the timing of the feeding could not have much relevance if it were not for the fact that it has certain unwanted side effects. In the first place, unbridled hunger during the night is the frequent appearance of insomnia, due to the frequent awakenings to take snacks.

This insomnia has the logical consequences for daily life: fatigue during the day, work problems and risk while driving, among others. In addition, this nocturnal diet produces continuous digestion at unusual hours, which disturbs sleep and encourages people to eat more, thus reinforcing this irregular eating behavior and running the risk of entering a vicious circle.

Consequences of this eating disorder

But, secondly, the nocturnal hunger attack can lead to obesity, despite the fact that in general the total daily intake is not much higher due to suffering from it. Thus, while the percentage of night eaters in non-obese people is around 1.5%, it rises to 8 – 27% (according to various studies) among those who suffer from obesity.

Another piece of information that supports the thesis of the close relationship between this syndrome and obesity is that half of the obese people who have the nocturnal eater syndrome had a normal weight before suffering from this disorder. It seems clear, then, that it led to overweight and then obesity. In any case, experts acknowledge that more studies are necessary to better understand the relationship between both variables.

How to identify a hunger attack

To find out if a person suffers from the nocturnal eater syndrome, they must resort to the food registration technique, which consists of writing down in detail (food, quantity, method of preparation, time) everything ingested throughout the day. This technique is very valuable for clinical nutrition, and the main tool to fight the disease at hand, among many others.

It is necessary to know that if you suffer from nocturnal hunger attacks, this if you have a treatment, which must be multidisciplinary: the dietician, together with the psychiatrist or psychologist, will use the food record made by the patient to assess the therapy to follow. For this, it is very important to indicate in the aforementioned registry, together with the previous data, the feelings or sensations that were had at the time of choosing or eating each food: sadness, euphoria, boredom, etc.

In this way, the specialist can infer, for each patient, how psyche and food are related in him, since in this relationship is much of the root of the problem.


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