A Moment of Science

Filling Up After Dark

Do you often find that you have no appetite for breakfast?If so, might your lack of hunger be caused by the fact that you eat over fifty percent of your daily calories after dinner? Finally, do you regularly wake up at least once a night to raid the kitchen for high-carb snacks?

Answering “yes” doesn’t mean that you lack self-control. What it does mean is that you may very well be suffering from Night Eating Syndrome, or NES for short.

Although scientists have known about NES since the 1950s, it’s still not clear what causes this strange disorder. Researchers believe that three hormones play significant roles. Studies have shown that people with NES tend to have low levels of melatonin, a hormone that helps you fall and stay asleep. NES sufferers are also known to have low amounts of the hormone leptin, which suppresses appetite. High levels of the hormone cortisol, meanwhile, which causes stress, are thought to help drive individuals with NES to eat after dark as a way of calming their nerves.

Currently there’s no established treatment for NES. Doctors have had some success with anti-depressants, which they think work by replacing carbohydrate-filled snacks as a means to calm frayed nerves. But there are no long-term studies to back this up.

If you suspect that you may have NES, consult a doctor or nutritionist.

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