Midnight Snacking Disrupting your Sleep?

Discover a solution for night eating syndrome
( [email protected] ) Oct 19, 2004 12:18 PM EDT

You skip breakfast because you just don’t feel like eating. You’re not hungry at lunch so you grab a muffin, and by the end of the day you have consumed very few calories. Then at 8 pm, when most people are finished eating for the day, you are standing in front of the fridge eating everything in sight. This pattern of low caloric intake during the day with most calories ingested in the evening and awakening at least once a night with intense food cravings, chiefly for carbohydrates, is characteristic of Night Eating Syndrome (NES).

NES, a relatively uncommon condition, was originally thought to be a sleep disorder because it is often associated with insomnia. However, the tendency to binge in the evening is typical of an eating disorder. Currently, it’s estimated that between 1 and 2 % of adults may have NES, yet it is postulated it may occur in up to 4% of obese people. There is no doubt that NES can be an obstacle for weight loss and result in decreased vitality. However, the proper supplements, eating habits, sleep hygiene, exercise program as well as natural hormone assistance can provide relief.

Causes of NES

The delicate balance of the hormones involved with healthy sleep, stress response and appetite regulation is at the root of NES.

Low melatonin: A hormone released by the pineal gland, melatonin is necessary for healthy sleep patterns, including falling and staying asleep. For optimal levels of melatonin, we must sleep in complete darkness, as even light the size of a dime shining anywhere on our skin is enough to inhibit its production. Melatonin is also reduced if we eat to close bedtime. It is always best to stop eating by 7:30 or 8:00 pm at the latest, because eating in the evening interferes with the release of melatonin. If melatonin does not get released, its cooling effect on body temperature necessary to induce sleep does not occur. Not surprisingly, many cases of NES have been found to be associated with low levels of melatonin.

Increased cortisol: Cortisol is a stimulating hormone that is released when we are under stress. It is naturally highest around 6 am in preparation for the day, gradually decreases throughout the day and evening and peaks slightly at 2 am and 4 am as it begins to increase to its highest level again. Most sleep-deprived individuals have been found to have abnormally high levels of cortisol in the evening and during the day. It is also found to be elevated in people with NES. High levels of cortisol in the evening may result in an inability to fall asleep, leading to more eating, as well as a pattern of waking between 2 and 4 am that is characteristic of stress.

Low leptin: Leptin is the chemical signal that tells us we are full and keeps our appetite in check. Leptin was not found to rise to normal levels during sleep in NES sufferers which may account for the sleep disturbing hunger pangs.

Treatment for NES

An effective treatment plan for NES must involve a multifaceted approach directed at raising melatonin levels, managing stress as well as assisting weight loss. Along with following the dietary habits in the Truestar weight loss program, the following may also be beneficial:

Relora, preferably taken in the evening, has been found to reduce high cortisol levels as well as aid in weight loss around the abdomen. Relora is also useful in NES to assist with re-establishing healthy sleep patterns; typical dosage is 600mg per day. Other methods to reduce cortisol are described on the Truestar Stress Page.

5 HTP, best taken in the evening, is an excellent way to increase serotonin levels, deficiencies of which have been linked to insomnia, over-consumption of carbohydrates and stress-related eating. Dosage ranges from 50 to 200 mg per day.

Since the majority of people with NES have low levels of melatonin, it only seems rational that supplements of it may provide benefit. A 3 mg pill, taken nightly, in conjunction with the two products above, is useful in many cases.

Exercise in the morning will help to reduce cortisol levels and promote weight loss. See the Truestar Exercise Plan for your personalized exercise program.