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Diet Diva
Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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Night Noshing

Do you wish you could sleep like Sleeping Beauty? Instead, do you wake up often throughout the night and the only thing that will get you back to sleep is a visit to Ben and Jerry?

How often do you eat in the middle of the night? I am not talking about eating chips while you are on the couch watching Idol, but rather it is more like you get out of bed at 2 AM to eat. There is actually a name for this called Night Eating Syndrome (NES). NES is diagnosed when someone eats at night, is fully aware of eating, and might not be able to get back to sleep unless he or she eats.

Another disorder called Nocturnal Sleep-Related Eating Disorder (NS-RED) happens when someone is unconscious, or sleepwalking. A person gets out of bed in the middle of the night and eats and doesn’t know they did it until the next day when they see the empty wrappers or ice cream tub in the sink. Talk about not enjoying your ice cream! You don't even remember eating it!

Both of these disorders are considered to be eating disorders as well as sleep disorders. It happens to men and women and affects about 1-3% of the population.
Researchers are working on finding causes, but preliminary research finds the following risk factors:
  • Not eating breakfast
  • Depression
  • High levels of stress
  • Skipping lunch
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Disturbed circadian rhythms of food intake

What can you do if you have NES or NS-RED?
Seek professional help from a doctor as well as Registered Dietitian. Your doctor may order a sleep study to see if your sleeping circadian rhythms are disturbed or if it just your food rhythms affected. Research also shows that prescription antidepressants have been highly effective in treating both syndromes. Talk to your doctor about the possibility of an antidepressant.

Modify your diet
1. Don't skip meals (eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day)
2. Add strategically placed snacks between meals
3. Avoid all caffeine
4. Avoid all alcohol

Happy slumbers!

Photo courtesy of caseywest
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About the Author


MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N

Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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