Night eating, also known as night eating syndrome, is considered to be an eating disorder which is generally characterized by the continuous pattern of binge eating during late night time periods. It was originally recognized by a doctor during 1955 and is currently proposed to be included in a the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, as it is considered to be an eating disorder which is greatly affected by sleep. The diagnosis of the condition tends to be controversial because the overall clinical aspect has been questioned since there are not any specifically official diagnostic criteria that it can be based on. It is known to affect around two percent of the population, and although it can affect both genders, it is known to be more common in young women.
Those who have night eating syndrome are more likely to suffer from low self-esteem and depression, and it has been shown that levels of the hormones during nocturnal time periods are significantly decreased. Usually, night eating syndrome is confused with nocturnal sleep related eating disorder, which is a mainly a disorder of sleep instead of directly eating disorder related. The main differences can be found in the fact that night eating syndrome features individuals binge eating late at night, while nocturnal sleep related eating disorder features individuals who are not aware that they have been eating while still under the influence of slumber. Doctors and scientists are still not sure of whether they should consider these conditions to be related to each other or think of them more purely as separate diseases which need to be treated in different ways.
It is believed that those who deal with night eating syndrome tend to skip breakfast and go for several hours without even eating their first meal. At least 25% of their calories are eaten after dinner, many sources believe that this is at least after 9 or 10 PM. The late night binges of these individuals always feature carbohydrates, though it is also believed that the consumption of these foods happens over a period of hours. The binge eating may happen throughout the night and may be repeated. Usually the eating habits are related to depression or anxiety which is not being treated with medication or other related treatment options; the individuals are using binge eating as a substitution for treatment because it provides them with a comfort for a short period of time.