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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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May 07, 2012

Dear Mark: Night Eating Syndrome

By Mark Sisson
171 Comments

There’s nothing quite so powerful as the urge to eat. Being living organisms that require sustenance and nutrition, we find it difficult to resist. It’s not like smoking, or sex, or drugs, which you can technically avoid and still live, because they aren’t really required for an individual’s survival. No, food is an absolute necessity. So what happens when that basic human requirement for life – the need to eat something – conflicts with another important factor in health – the need to sleep? Today’s edition of Dear Mark deals with exactly that: night-eating syndrome, a real and extremely frustrating eating disorder in which the afflicted awaken during the night, compelled to eat everything and anything. As you’ll see from the following question, when you wake up at 3 AM with a raw, preternatural hunger gnawing at your very core, you’re probably not going to throw together a nice spinach, kale, and watercress salad in lemon vinaigrette and poach a few pastured eggs. You’re going to grab what’s available and what’s easy and what satisfies that carnal urge:

I have no problem eating healthy foods during the day. For some reason, I get up in the middle of the night feeling hungry, and eating whatever junk food (donuts, pastries) my family has in the kitchen. I’ve tried eating more during the day, but I give in to the craving 9 times out of 10. I’ve searched the blog, also tried eating more during the day, but this is the only thing I haven’t found an article on. Not sure if it’s a physical or mental issue. This is the only part of going Primal I’ve struggled with. Any suggestions on how to stop doing this? Thanks for reading.

Alexander

I did some digging around, and while experts have a pretty good handle on what’s going on – hormonally – with night-eating syndrome (PDF), they’re still trying to figure out the etiology, the cause of it all. From what we can tell, someone with night-eating syndrome has lower melatonin at night, which weakens their REM sleep. They have lower leptin, which is an appetite suppressant. Their ghrelin (an appetite stimulant) is phased forward by five hours, meaning they get hungry ahead of “when they should.” They have higher thyroid stimulating hormone (which is also seen in hypothyroid, as the thyroid is trying to “stimulate” more hormone production because it’s lacking). In response to a corticotropin-releasing hormone test, they release less cortisol, which suggests a depleted (overworked, overstressed) hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA). They snack more throughout the day and tend to skip breakfast. Rather than eat solid meals, they graze. All signs seem to suggest that both troughs and spikes of their hormonal cycles are muted; since the body needs acute spikes and drops for proper functioning and signaling, this could pose a problem.

So while we don’t have the absolute cause pinned down, it seems like the HPA, or the stress response system, are involved. I do have some general advice. Some of these may not apply to you, but take a look and see if anything looks familiar.

Don’t fast and don’t skip meals. I know, I know. You just got done reading that long series where I touted the benefits of fasting, and here I go telling you not to do it. What gives? Not only do habitual night-eaters tend to avoid breakfast (which could just be a correlation), they’re also hormonally dysregulated, especially in regards to the adrenals. If you’re trying to fix an adrenal issue, you do not want to be skipping meals and playing around with fasting. Fasting is incredibly useful for the intact and the healthy, but it can do a number on people with messed up HPAs. Since nocturnal binge-eaters have a dysfunctional HPA (almost as a rule), that’s probably you.

Eat breakfast, and make it big. I suggest some sort of animal and a serving of fruit.

Eat meals, not snacks. Do three or four solid meals each day, instead of grazing.

Watch your fructose intake, particularly processed refined fructose, which can disrupt leptin.

If you’re training too much or too hard, either cut back or support it with adequate nutrition and recovery time. That means doing CrossFit once or twice a week instead of four or five times (or not at all). That means turning half of your long runs into long walks (or all of them). That means getting plenty of sleep, and if you have a bad night where you get just a few hours, don’t work out the next day (you’ll survive). If you can’t (won’t) cut back on the training, then you have to make sure you’re eating enough calories and enough carbohydrates. I don’t like the idea of filling up on carbs (and I train in such a way that doesn’t require a ton of them for that exact reason), but if you need ’em, you need ’em.

Turn off the electronics after dark, and use candles. Might I suggest playing board or card games with friends or a significant other, instead of video games or watching TV? There’s nothing like a game of Jenga by candlelight. If you’re going to use electronics or keep the lights on, get some blue-light blocking goggles. Blue light’s suppression of melatonin may not be causative in night-eating syndrome, but it certainly isn’t helping.

Consider light therapy, especially if you’re indoors during the day. We need exposure to bright light upon waking and during the day (just as we don’t need it at night), but indoor lighting simply doesn’t cut it. If sunlight isn’t an option, look into getting a lightbox. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and night-eating have a lot of crossover, and there have even been case studies showing that patients who suffer from both enjoy amelioration of their symptoms after employing light therapy.

Practice stress reduction or avoidance. Whether that’s avoiding chronic stress (desirable, but not always realistic), improving your reaction to stress, or developing coping mechanisms. Evidence points to a night eater having an over-stressed HPA, and more stress will only worsen the problem. Chris Kresser just wrapped up a 30-day “Best Your Stress” challenge, but you can still follow along and reap the benefits. Read through my previous suggestions for reducing stress as a starter, and consider meditation, too. One study found that a twenty minute muscle relaxation exercise performed daily was able to increase morning appetite and reduce late night eating.

Last, but not least, be honest as you appraise your lifestyle. Are you going to bed early enough? Are you reading this post at 12 AM in a dark room? Are you eating enough food (and the right kind) to fuel your performance? Are you training a bit too much, a bit too often, and should you perhaps tone it down and take some days off? Are you walking as much as you should? Are you reducing stress as much as you can?

While the reigning uncertainty with regards to the cause of this situation is frustrating, you can use this opportunity to try a bunch of different tactics. I hope it helps.

Readers, now it’s your turn. Have you dealt with this problem before? What worked and what didn’t? If you have any more advice, please leave it in the comment section.

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171 Comments on "Dear Mark: Night Eating Syndrome"

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leida
leida
4 years 4 months ago
I found that I wake up hungry at 2 am if i do not eat big enough dinner. It doesn’t matter what I ate during the day, if dinner was small, or too far away from the bedtime, i would wake up starved at 2 am. I never ate, just fought it and it went away in a couple of hours (which was about breakfast time for me). So, I started allocating my calories in such a way that I eat at least 50% of daily calories at dinner. I could never-ever skip supper without interrupting sleep. Now, when I… Read more »
Debra
4 years 4 months ago

I, too, have to be sure to eat a substantial dinner, not too early, and it must include a good portion of meat. If I don’t, I wake with an uncomfortable, gnawing hunger. This flies in the face of advice to make dinner your smallest meal of the day and not to eat too close to bedtime, so it’s good to read about some possible reasons for this phenomenon.

Rich
4 years 4 months ago

Problems like this and many others; reflux, bloating, bingeing, disappeared when I said goodbye to WHEAT (and to a lesser extent, sugar).

Jessica
Jessica
4 years 4 months ago

I am new to this site and to the Primal Blueprint but I work the oddest hours. I used to binge right before bed or wake up and stare at the ceiling thinking about food. I started taking melatonin. I do not know if this is against the primal ideas but it is natural to the human body. This is the only thing that has helped me with all my problems. I sleep, I don’t have hunger pains and I wake up refreshed. I apologize if this is not an option for the primal lifestyle.

liberty1776
liberty1776
4 years 4 months ago

Be careful with melatonin because it is a hormone. Your body may produce less melatonin as a result of steadily consuming external melatonin, thus creating a dependent feedback loop. Try taking 500mg of magnesium in place of melatonin before you want to sleep.

Jen
Jen
4 years 1 month ago
I have a similar problem, but I suffer from night hunger if at any point during the day I get severely hungry. So, if I end up having a late lunch and I get super-hungry before hand, it won’t matter how much I try and ‘make up for it’ by having a large dinner, I will have hunger pains that night and not be able to sleep unless I get up again and eat. I am of normal healthy weight btw, but this issue has plagued me for as long as I can remember. I wish I could have it… Read more »
Ashley
Ashley
3 years 6 months ago

Hello, I just read your comment on this website about your night hunger. I too suffer from this same problem. I was just wondering if you have found anything that has helped you overcome it. I hate waking and eating every night and have tried numerous things to control it, but have gotten nowhere. Any help would be great.
Thank you for your time!!

jan
jan
2 years 11 months ago

im also a night eater but i eat in the dark bec im ashamed of myself.im going to try hypmotist on the 7th of nov to see if he can stop it

Anne
Anne
2 years 6 months ago

I have had what is called Night time eating syndrome. I have had it all my life and I am 67. My mother also had it. I have 25 more pounds to lose and this eating at night has stopped me getting the weight off. I don’t think there is one thing that can help it. I have tried it all.

Maria
Maria
2 years 4 months ago
Hi there I’m just finding this site and I see that most of the comments are about 2 years old. Just want to add my bit. I thought I was the only one in the world suffering from this. I am happy to see there is actually a name for it and that other people experience it too (misery loves company I guess :-).) I have however figured out a way to overcome the problem. I find that foods rich in protein (which keeps us feeling full longer) eaten before bedtime is quite helpful. If you’re not allergic to peanuts,… Read more »
Sally
Sally
7 months 21 days ago

Omg i i have the same issue, i wake up EVERY night at exactly 2am and i feel like am starving, even if i want to go back to sleep i cant until i eat junk food even though i eat healthy all day and i don’t crave any unhealthy food during the day please help i don’t want to gain weight!!!!!

Michael C
Michael C
4 years 4 months ago

I occasionally get this sort of thing and a couple of teaspoons of almond butter right before bed seem to help quite a bit. Walnuts might work too (or perhaps better) since they are supposed to have a greater effect on ghrelin than almonds are.

Carolyn
Carolyn
4 years 4 months ago

I also have tried the spoonful of peanut butter before bed & that seems to do the trick.

Gydle
4 years 4 months ago

I thought peanut butter was evil?

Laurie
Laurie
4 years 4 months ago

I don’t know about “evil”, but peanuts are a legume, so I consider them unhealthy and don’t eat them. Plus they are gross unless cooked and salted.

james@ceilingfaninstallation
4 years 4 months ago

LoL! why you said that peanut is evil? it is very nutritious. You must search in the Google what are the nutrients of peanuts.

Alexander
Alexander
4 years 4 months ago

Mark, I really appreciate you taking the time you took to put this together, I wasn’t sure how soon, or if you would be able to, because of how many emails you must get, but I literally just did an exaggerated fist pump in the middle of the street when I saw the title of today’s Dear Mark! Thanks again!

Jen
Jen
4 years 4 months ago

This is my number one biggest problem. And I don’t fast anymore because of this.
I eat perfectly healthy throughout the day then I toss and turn in bed even though I’m not hungry but I know I’ll be sedated once I have food (mainly already prepared high carbs) in my stomach. I felt like a mess. I sometimes still do if I skip out on meals.

Laurie
Laurie
4 years 4 months ago

I struggle with the same issue. For me, it is part of an addiction cycle. The high carb food causes a “buzz”, relaxes me, and then I fall asleep. The latest research shows that the substance itself doesn’t CAUSE the addiction. Trauma and pain are at the root of it and I agree.
Sometimes I really am hungry and have to go get a small protein snack, or I will never fall asleep.
For me, eating enough at meals, shutting the tv off, and getting exercise helps.

diane
diane
3 years 1 month ago
jen, I have the exact same problem. I am petite; used to be very lean at 8% body fat…which I guess I couldn’t sustain for longer than 2 yrs. due to big hunger, yet in my attempts to stay…and then return to lean, having gained about 10 lbs. of pure fat, I have developed this cycle of super clean primal eating during the day and then hunger driven carb and fat seeking at 1 am.this has led to an unwanted fat gain of 10 lbs. what is the answer:? more carbs during the day? or maybe… I feel that I… Read more »
Angel
Angel
9 months 1 day ago

Do you shill have this problem?!??oh how I am in the same boat. I do the same thing please help of you can!!!! Thanks

Helj
Helj
4 years 4 months ago
I’m curious how this relates to pre-sleep hunger. I find that I always struggle between 8 and 10 PM after a dinner at 6 PM. Sometimes my stomach is actually growling painfully, but often it is just a mild hunger that keeps me from reading, or watching a hockey game, or going to bed. I can’t seem to fall asleep if I am hungry either. I always tend to lean towards nuts and nut butters around this time, or perhaps a tbsp of coconut oil. Just something with some substance to it … I tend to crave meat (but rarely… Read more »
Brandon
Brandon
4 years 4 months ago
I’ve had similar issues with hunger pains before bed also. I used to try to eat dinner 2 or 3 hours before I go to bed. I would try to fall asleep but end up tossing and turning. After trying to sleep for an hour or so I ended up in the kitchen for a night binge. Now I have dinner or a nice snack about an hour before I try to fall asleep. Carrots or avocados have been my go to. I also take ZMA before I go to sleep which is a Zinc and Magnesium supplement (Helps me… Read more »
Neil
Neil
4 years 4 months ago

This is my problem, too. I eat a LARGE dinner, and yet i feel i must eat a few hours afterwards. I often feel that if i do not eat something shortly before going to bed that i will not be able to fall asleep.

Perhaps Mark could touch on this. I wonder if he snacks before going to be or generally how long before going to bed he avoids food.

Isabel
Isabel
4 years 4 months ago
Same problem here. I figured out that this problem is related to my circadian rhythm. When I’m able to let my body live its natural circadian rhythm, I tend to fall asleep at 2-3 am and sleep until 11 am. As every other employee, I have to get up early, so my working hours collide with my sleeping pattern (I have to go to bed although I’m not really tired and I have to get up when I’m not really awake). As a logical consequence, I’m not at all hungry in the mornings (I always skip breakfast), but I’m hungrier… Read more »
Laurie
Laurie
4 years 4 months ago

Wow, you just described me perfectly. I’ve been blaming food addiction 100%.
But on weekends, when I follow my own schedule, I don’t have the same problems.

Derek
Derek
4 years 4 months ago

Boy! I couldn’t have described my situation any better. Please post any solutions you find helpful in trying to quell pre-sleep hunger and/or tricks to fall asleep earlier (even midnight or 1am would be welcome). I will do same if I find anything. Based on the above posts I am considering giving Melatonin or a calcium/magnesium/zinc supplement a try. Thanks.

Coulinjo
Coulinjo
2 years 9 months ago

Try Gaviscon or something similar. I’ve been reading about how that gnawing ‘hunger’ pain is actually reflux. It’s working for me 🙂

Dan
Dan
4 years 4 months ago

Obviously trying to prevent the waking up in the first place is the best approach but….

Ever try ‘baiting’ yourself with something more primal? Eating a rotisserie chicken with my bare hands is always something that makes me feel a little more Grok-like, and I almost always end up doing that on days where we fail to plan our meals and I can’t wait any longer to eat.

Just a thought.

Deanna
4 years 4 months ago

That’s not a bad idea. If there’s rotisserie chicken hanging around, that’s as quick and easy to grab as any donut.

I don’t have this problem, but I am a leftovers queen. I have two bags of homemade beef jerky and a three-pound roast beef in my refrigerator… and it’s just me and my husband!

Kelekona
Kelekona
4 years 4 months ago

I was just thinking that having a snack pre-prepared and just waiting to be shoved into your mouth at breakfast would be a good strategy for at least evening out the doughnut’s quick advantage.

BootstrapsOnMyFivefingers
BootstrapsOnMyFivefingers
4 years 4 months ago

Interesting that there seems to be a correlation with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). I have SAD and I don’t feel compelled to eat at night, but 4-5 dark months out of the year, I wake up at 5am and can’t go back to sleep. I fall asleep on the couch around 9:15pm. Very frustrating. It’s definately light-related because just in the past two weeks, I’m blissfully sleeping in until the sun wakes me (around 6am-ish). I’ve often wondered if there is something else going on, like my metabolism is looking for food and my whole internal clock is just off-kilter.

Missy
Missy
4 years 4 months ago

I’ve not had a problem with night eating, but I love the suggestions. I need to print them off and review my progress on each periodically. Great suggestions!

Webutante
4 years 4 months ago
I feel for Alexander. While I often have no problem getting to sleep on time, I often wake up at 2 or 3 am….but never hungry. If I couldn’t get back quickly, I’d resort to popping half a benedryl and doze off again. However, in the course of going Paleo, I decided to try a new approach to getting back to sleep: having a tablespoon of coconut oil. It works like a charm and I’m usually back fast asleep within 15-20 minutes. I’m learning—I think—-that fast falling blood sugar is the cause of hunger and wakefulness at night and drowsiness… Read more »
MrsStorm
MrsStorm
4 years 4 months ago
It means a lot for me to read this. My night binges have gotten better over the past year that I have been primal (I think partially because there is no bad stuff in the house to gorge on). But even when I don’t end up eating, almost every night I wake up ravenous at around 2 or 3 am and at least stare at the frige, fighting temptation. Night binging has been a big issue for me for as long as I remember. And I too tried all that eating more during the day, and all the normal advice… Read more »
Heather
3 years 8 months ago

me too. exactly what you said. i have tried everything. i did a ton of internet research about 5 or 6 years ago but didn’t find much. seems to be more awareness out there now- so this is the beginning of my second attempt to get better. reading that others suffer gives me a sort of hope i didn’t have before.

aek
aek
4 years 4 months ago
Well, I have difficulty falling asleep – except when I can’t stay awake between 6-8 pm. I never get more than 3 hours of sleep total. I have tried all of the sleep hygiene protocols. When I eat at night, it isn’t normal hunger. It’s almost as if my brain is misinterpreting sleep hunger as food hunger. I walk until I can’t because of pain. I never wear myself out to the point of being able to sleep. I appreciate this post as far as it is able to go. It confirms that I’m doing pretty much all that I… Read more »
LJ
LJ
4 years 4 months ago

I found huge improvements when I started taking magnesium, and squatting. And also eating a big breakfast. I think there is something that changes your hormones when you keep doing these things.
Do you lift heavy things often? It will take time to resolve ,but keep pushing. I know how you feel, it is miserable not to sleep well. I’m not there, but even that first 10% of sleeping better, meaning one night in a month, is better than 0 nights of sleeping well in a month.

aek
aek
4 years 4 months ago

Done all of that – still do, in fact. Tweaked foods, took melatonin, meds, eating windows, sleeping (ha) times, light, noise, temp, etc, etc. This has been going on for more than 7 years now. Nothing has made the slightest difference.

Moe
Moe
4 years 4 months ago

Have you tried iron supplements or tyrosine?

I have terrible sleep problems – eight continuous hours of sleep used to be a rare thing, even if I was completely exhausted. Tyrosine helps some, but it gives me headaches.

I’ve been told many times that I’m not anemic, but when I tried iron supplements my sleep problems improved quite a bit. Sounds odd for someone who eats lots of red meat, but somehow I need it. I’m not hungry as much at night either.

LJ
LJ
4 years 4 months ago
Mark has a section where he says taking melatonin can actually be bad for sleeping problems. http://www.marksdailyapple.com/before-you-close-your-eyes-make-sure-theyre-open/ I guess that makes you feel better huh? Sorry. So, the other thing I can recommend for you is a litvinov, and the Leptin reset. But again, these are your self-experiments, and maybe you’ve tried these all in combination, all at once. I think it’s really hard to isolate variables. I’m still trying. 1) If you google Litvinov, this is what you’ll find: “Eight reps of front squats with 405 pounds, immediately followed by a 75-second 400-meter run. Repeat this little combination for… Read more »
Barbara Hvilivitzky
Barbara Hvilivitzky
4 years 4 months ago

Have you tried 5HTP and GABA before bed? That worked for me very well. I sleep fine now when nothing worked before.

ces
ces
4 years 4 months ago
Whoa. Have you got bad teeth by any chance? Like root canals and dodgy fillings? Just a suggestion here but consider looking in to the toxicity of root canal’d teeth and chronic pain. At 39yrs I’ve recently had both two root canals taken out following the W.A. Price protocol and the difference in back pain is genuinely astounding. My depression has well and truly left me too. Life is awesome free of pain and dental junk. Even with a great diet, if you have chronic pain stemming from chronic toxicity, all you can do is remove the source. Simple diet… Read more »
ces
ces
4 years 4 months ago

(p.s. Mentioned to Aek because I could only sleep for about four hours from 1am till c.5am each night for YEARS with chronic back pain, anxiety and depression. Teeth are gone, back pain, fatigue, depression, anxiety all gone.)

Heather
Heather
4 years 1 month ago
Aek- I know this is a late comment but I just found this site! It sucks doesn’t it? I’ve struggled with this since I can remember and even tried every type of natural sleep aid I could find, along with a few not so natural… Then I found out I was pregnant so everything got worse! I’m lucky if I get an hour or two a night but usually I’m not that lucky! However, I have found two things that have helped… Ish… I know it’s controversial and not sure how it fits in with this site, but mmj oil… Read more »
Mark
4 years 4 months ago

I bet it’s a salt craving. I find if I don’t eat enough Himalayan sea salt during the day, I get salt cravings at night. Since I figured it out, I just eat a pinch of salt and the craving goes away.

K
K
4 years 4 months ago

How about taking melatonin? I have a problem with eating at night (but after dinner, not waking up. I just feel so hungry at this time) Melatonin supresses hunger so I take one at about 9pm and the hunger goes away, then I get tired about 10 pm and go right to sleep. I would try this and the other suggestions to eat some fat/nut butter before bed (maybe an hour before with the melatonin?) Good luck.

Jana
Jana
4 years 4 months ago
The only time I find that I eat at night is when I’m pregnant. I figure it has a lot to do with the fact that I can’t eat much because there’s not much room with a baby growing, I’m also nine months pregnant. I usually only go for whole milk or deviled eggs in the middle of the night. Plus, being so far along, I wake up at odd hours in the night anyways. This is normal as it is my body’s way of prepping me for night feedings. I’d say if you are pregnant, go for a full… Read more »
Swole Mike
4 years 4 months ago
I’m surprised f.lux (http://stereopsis.com/flux/) wasn’t mentioned since it helps reduce monitor blue light which should result in higher levels of endogenous melatonin. Supplementing with melatonin is also a great idea. Especially since our modern lifestyle is filled with light in the evening which leads to lower than normal levels. Any melatonin would work but I’ve had the best quality sleep with this one (http://tinyurl.com/amzn-melatonin). Optimal dose is 3-9mg taken 1-2 hours before bed. I find most sleep disorders have to do with stress, spending time on the computer/devices before bed, and overall poor lifestyle. So I agree with Mark on… Read more »
LJ
LJ
4 years 4 months ago
I found the leptin reset to be somewhat helpful in this respect. I would get so hungry right before bed, and then I never slept well after that. So the Leptin Reset – Eating a big breakfast (he calls for 50 g of protein! or however much you can stomach, + fat), and not skipping meals, helped me with that. When I have disordered meal times, I find that I don’t sleep as well. Also if I exercise too close to bedtime, I would wake up in the middle of the night hungry. I think there are some people who… Read more »
LJ
LJ
4 years 4 months ago
Alexander, I also forgot to ask if you have always had trouble sleeping or if this is recent since you’ve started the Primal Blueprint? I have always had trouble sleeping and still do. So as to not stress about it, I remind myself that this problem didn’t crop up overnight and it won’t fix itself overnight. If you happen to get up 1 night per week or even 4 nights per week, that’s still better than 7/7 right? Give yourself some credit when you get through the night without waking up hungry – the first time it happens, you’ll be… Read more »
Alexander
Alexander
4 years 4 months ago

LJ, I have struggled with it, since before going Primal, I think it’s a combination of everything Mark said, especially stress.

LJ
LJ
4 years 4 months ago
I hear you Alexander! The stress of going to bed, knowing you’re going to wake up in a couple of hours sucks. Do you keep a record of what you eat, when you eat, and your activity level, versus when it happens, or does it happen every single night? Tracking is really helpful. And also, for me – recording not just what I ate but how I feel after what I ate – did I have gas/upset stomach? Do I feel overfull eating X, Y, Z? It sounds crazy but you have a ton of serotonin and dopamine producing systems… Read more »
Alexander
Alexander
4 years 4 months ago

I haven’t tried it yet, but I’ve considered it, I’ll look into it more. If you can read my comment I posted at the end of the feed, any input is appreciated.

LJ
LJ
4 years 4 months ago

Also – I’m pretty young (in my 20s)…I think that also leads you to sleep stress/disturbance. You want the good food, the friends, you’re worrying about your job. or maybe that’s at every age? But I find the best way to relax is a routine. I’m sorry you suffer from this.

Alexander
Alexander
4 years 4 months ago

I actually did read that article, but for some reason, forgot about it. I just reread it, thanks for your help!

Sarah
Sarah
3 years 11 months ago
Yeah, I agree. I used to wake up every night to eat without fail. Now it happens only 1-2 nights a week. It still feels like I’m back at square 1 when it happens, but I have to remind myself that it’s a-lot better than it used to be. I feel like it does have a lot to do with routine. I do shift work (fingers crossed for not much longer as I have nearly finished my studies). When I am always on the same shift I can get into a routine of sleep/wake at the same time and I… Read more »
Alexander
Alexander
4 years 4 months ago

“Don’t turn the lights on, tonight I want to see you in the dark”.

Sounds like the munchies, I suggest less cannabis unless it’s medicinal.

Kelly
Kelly
4 years 4 months ago
This is so interesting. Esp the comment about blood sugar dropping in the night. My migraines come on at night (I wake with them) which my neurologist could never figure out. Maybe this is what’s happening (although I never wake up). I can try a T of coconut oil before bed. And I just bought something called Black Seed Oil (nigella sativa) which is said to help migraines – so maybe some of that too! Hmm…going to have to think about this one – maybe I can fix what has been a HUGE problem in my life – thanks all!
Tina
Tina
4 years 4 months ago

Magnesium is supposed to help with migraines, too.

Barbara Hvilivitzky
Barbara Hvilivitzky
4 years 4 months ago
I also had this problem with waking up in the night with migraine-like headaches, or I’d wake up with one in the morning, early. They are called hipnic headaches and supposedly have no cause. When I started eating very low carb, and using intermittent fasting they went away. As well when I stopped taking 5HTP and GABA for sleep they lessened. I’ve just started taking 5HTP again and they have not started up again but I’ve continued with the intermittent fasting so maybe that has helped. I do take magnesium before sleep with a big dollop of yogurt and a… Read more »
Michael
Michael
4 years 4 months ago

Thanks for this Mark. I really appreciate. I for one have found some help combining the Primal/Paleo lifestyle with 12 step programs for compulsive overeating. If anyone needs more help with food, they can seek out http://www.oa.org.

TinaP
TinaP
4 years 4 months ago

I have been doing primal since January. I was doing really well with 3 meals, until I started playing with fasting…long story short, it led to bingeing and weight gain. Recently, the doctor told me that my adrenals weren’t working, hormones totally crazy. Today, I decided to go back eating 3 meals a day and forget about fasting. Thank you for your timely article, I feel better knowing that i’m one of those people who should not play with fasting (and it is okay) 🙂

Morgan
Morgan
4 years 4 months ago
Maybe once you get your homones in check, you will be able to do a 16 hour fast one or two days a week, including the 8 hours you sleep the night before. Adrenal issues are controversial. Adrenal fatigue likely is not a real syndrome. From what I’ve read, the issue is much more complicated. I believe it is more an issue of HPA dysfunction, than simply having adrenal fatigue. I’m not sure if your doctor was specifically talking about adrenal fatigue or not, sorry if he wasn’t. There are some good discussions about fatigue over on MindandMuscle.net.
TinaP
TinaP
4 years 4 months ago

You are right about the HPA dysfunction. Adrenal fatigue was just part of my problem:( Thanks for the link, I will take a look at it. I have been doing 16/18 hour fast for about 3 weeks, that’s when the bingeing got out of control:(

Phil
Phil
4 years 4 months ago

Morgan, why in the world would you suggest she go back to what clearly caused her problems to begin with?? Every indication is that Primal works best for her without fasting. Can’t understand why she should risk it again when the effect of fasting impacted her so negatively the 1st time around.

Ben Gordon
Ben Gordon
4 years 4 months ago

Is it that bad to night eat? I would say 2 out of 3 nights I wake up once or more, have a protein shake or some leftover meat and go back to bed. Helps me to sleep like a baby!

Morgan
Morgan
4 years 4 months ago

A great wholemilk yogurt, like Hawthorne valley, or Erivan, with maybe a little buckwheat honey or some frozen berries, is a great late night snack.

As long as we keep it fairly healthy, I don’t think it’s a big deal for many of us that feel the need to have a bite to eat shortly before bed to comfort our tummies.

Joanna
4 years 4 months ago

I don’t have problems with night cravings, but I did used to wake a lot because of arthritis pain and what I found really helped were Lifewave sleep patches. This is a nanotechnology patch that works on stimulating acupuncture points that helps produce more melatonin and keeps you sleeping deeply all night. Certainly I’ve found they work very well for me. If they work so well on helping you sleep through pain, they might let you sleep through food cravings as well. Might be worth trying.

Decaf Debi
Decaf Debi
4 years 4 months ago

Thank you for your input. I’m going to look into those patches. I haven’t slept well in nearly 20 yeas because od chronic pain from Lyme Disease. I actually sleep on a heating pad set on high, and I wake up within 2 or 3 minutes of it turning off every hour. So I wake up and have to fall back to sleep hourly. Talk about bad sleep. And I have permanent burns from the heating pad all over my back and hips to prove it!

Cat
Cat
4 years 4 months ago

I have fibro pain as well – have you tried a heated bed pad? I got one for Christmas and it has been a real life saver, as it is basically a body-sized heating pad. And you can get them where each side has its own controller, so your bed partner doesn’t have to have it on at all. I have hardly used my heating pad at all since I got it.

Elisa
Elisa
4 years 4 months ago
I used to have this problem too, which my doctor suggested was due to blood sugar dropping during the night. She told me that it’s especially a problem for carbohydrate sensitive individuals. It happened both when I was eating a high-carb and low-carb diet. When I was eating a high-carb diet, the drop in blood sugar followed by the spike is what would wake me up. When I was eating low-carb, I wasn’t eating enough carbs at dinner to get me through the night. But I noticed this was only a problem when I drank coffee, which can cause larger… Read more »
Deuce
Deuce
4 years 4 months ago
VERY interesting. I work from home a have a (potentially?) bad habit of waking up around 8AM but not eating breakfast until around noon. At that time it is usually a hearty meal of eggs and bacon or some other meat. Despite being a ‘meal’ person rather than a grazer throughout the day, I am surprised to often find myself ravenously hungry between 10PM and ~12:30, my typical bedtime. Fruit and nuts are almost always my go to in these times. That said, I have never actually woken up from hunger. I have no problem losing or maintaining weight. I… Read more »
Sarah
Sarah
3 years 11 months ago

I kinda agree with your post Deuce. I notice that the more I worry about eating during the night the worse it gets :/ I mean eating a yogurt or a can of tuna at 2am isn’t really that unhealthy if it helps us sleep better.

Shebeeste
Shebeeste
4 years 4 months ago

I believe Julia Ross’ “The Mood Cure” addresses this as well. It may have something to do with Serotonin levels? Don’t quote me on that. Most of the book can be found in Google Books, but be sure to check it out from the library or buy it to get the whole story.

Ryan
Ryan
4 years 4 months ago
I have been looking everywhere for an answer to this for years. My diet and lifestyle is very solid. High quality foods from high quality sources all the time. Train hard and get plenty of rest. Bed early all the time, and usually sleep well, except… I usually wake about 2 hours into my sleep in desperation mode for simple sugars. I mean desperate, I am just compelled to cram bad food in my mouth. Nothing but sugars will do. As a firefighter who previously worked in an insanely busy hall for years, I assumed it was because my body… Read more »
Evan
Evan
4 years 4 months ago
Ryan – Some things that have worked for me (but not completely sustainable, ymmv) are: try to eat a simple diet (similar to wholehealthsource’s low reward meal diet) where you eat only a few foods. your hunger cravings drop like a rock and can lower your cravings at night. this has worked for me (not 100% but this has brought me the most recent success) i believe non-fasting does help, though I cannot say that with 100% conviction. plus, i know its hard to break the cycle of wake up at 2am, eat, then wake up at 7am, and eat… Read more »
Shebeeste
Shebeeste
4 years 4 months ago

You say you’ve tried everything in the comments but have you tried the recommendations in the Mood Cure, per my above post? Here’s the quiz:

http://www.moodcure.com/take_the_mood_type_questionnaire.html

It *is* low Serotonin, according to Julia Ross, that affect the eating in the middle of the night thing.

Eating primal will get one very far but some of us still have problems with our neurotransmitter receptors for whatever reason and need additional help. The book covers diet, which is almost primal (some non-gluten grains), but most important is supplementing with amino acids.

Tony
Tony
4 years 4 months ago

I don’t think anyone should ever worry that they don’t sleep a full 8 hours a night. Sleeping this long is quite a recent occurrence.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-16964783

If you can’t get the full 8 hours in one go then maybe focus on on splitting it out during the day (power nap, siesta etc)

Working all day then getting a mandatory 8 hours before getting up and doing it all over again is pretty far removed from primal.

masage
4 years 4 months ago
I’m wondering, if the same advice is suitable for emotional eating? I’m an occasional (becoming more frequent) emotional eater and I think I can use some of the above advices in these terms. I’m thinking of forming a diary on this site in the forum section to help me with transition and occuring prblems … Thanks for the article, I find most of the content on the site useful. I am grateful for this site and it’s eye opening “wisdom”. 🙂 Thank you, Mark, I would love to participate in this project somehow. If starting a journal is one of… Read more »
ravi
4 years 4 months ago
try taking just a little (1/4 to 1/2 tablet to start) of melatonin – this has helped my whole family – including my child – through some stressful potentially-sleep-loss times – also, it was encouraging to see that melatonin is one of 3 substances that actually breaks down BPA – that nasty hormone disrupter that kids get overdoses of by their exposure to almost everything they touch(plastic of course…) we have also found that – contrary to a fearful expectation of dependence – the melatonin supplementation when stopped does not cause a problem – but them we always keep the… Read more »
Wendy Bottrell
4 years 4 months ago

Great info! It makes sense to be related to stress and not sleeping well. Personally since I started eating a Paleo diet and eliminated gluten I sleep through the night. Thanks again

Mamachibi
Mamachibi
4 years 4 months ago
Hubby has taken sleeping pills for 35 years. We’ve tried to get him off several times and his body is resistant to unassisted sleep nearly to the point of psychosis. Of course, when you’re on any drug that long, your body gets used to it and it stops working as well. So, they switch him up between five or six different drugs. One of them messes with his hunger signaling big time and he will not only eat when he wakes in the middle of the night, but he will sleep-eat. He generally grabs the first thing he sees, so… Read more »
martinus
4 years 4 months ago

If you sit in front of a computer a lot, f.lux is awesome:
http://stereopsis.com/flux/

It adjusts the blueness of the monitor according to the time. I’ve been using this for a year now and it is definitely better for the eyes.

Animanarchy
Animanarchy
4 years 4 months ago
When I lived with my parents I often stayed up late and ate at night. During school time I’d generally stay up close to midnight. I stayed in my room using my computer (often playing games or watching DVDs) and exercising. When I wasn’t in school anymore I’d often stay up until 3am or so, sometimes even staying up all night or staying out most of the night and going to bed shortly before or after it got light out. Some of these nights I stuffed myself to an inhuman capacity but generally just wanted a big bowl of something… Read more »
Joy Dvorak
4 years 4 months ago

Thank you for clarification around fasting and adrenal fatigue. Two years after my onset on adrenal fatigue, I still cannot skip a meal. I’ll have poor sleep and increased anxiety as a result. Great tips in this post! Many have helped my healing tremendously.

Craig
Craig
4 years 4 months ago

I read that vitamin C and B5 help the body to break down adrenalin. I take these every night before bed with melatonin and for me it works great. I sleep better and don’t feel wasted the next day like I do if I take a sleeping pill. My wife has tried this and it works well for her too.

Paula
4 years 4 months ago
Don’t fight it! The BEST thing about grain free is guilt free, consequence free, eating in front of the TV after dinner later at night. Every night around 9:00 PM I have to eat or else I won’t sleep well. This is usually what I eat: cheese melted in the microwave on a paper plate, or cream cheese from the container, or peanut butter from the jar. Ahhh, peanut butter. For evenings when I’m plagued by rabid carb cravings, the peanut butter satisfies without going too far off the deep end. (Yes, I know the debate rages on that peanut… Read more »
Shebeeste
Shebeeste
4 years 4 months ago

Peanuts are a legume actually. I eat almond butter or pastured butter as a nighttime snack. 😀

Craig
Craig
4 years 4 months ago

I wake up often at night. I don’t feel hungry but used to have a hard time getting back to sleep. Then I learned zazen or breathing meditation. This almost always works, i.e. concentrating on my breathing. It was the thoughts and worries that kept me awake. Zazen loosens the grip of these and my body takes over. I don’t know if this will help those who are hungry but suggest it in case it does.

Cheri
Cheri
4 years 4 months ago
It sounds to me like your body getting the jitters about going from carb-burning to fat-burning metabolism. Granted this was mostly pre-primal for me, but I ate according to Protein Power more or less for years. If the carbs snuck back in, I’d have to do a carb detox. I would feel like I was dying, literally STARVING, even though I just ate. The best way I found to get past that was to allow myself to eat if I felt hungry even if I ate 20 minutes ago, but to eat protein and fat. No carbs. In a couple… Read more »
Jordano
Jordano
4 years 4 months ago

Mark, Thanks for the article and especially the very good journal link. Are you aware of any links between NES and nighttime sweating? Are they connected by hypothalamic disregulation? I overtrained and underate my way into oblivion last year and NES and sweating (profuse, bed soaking) were the two of the most prominent symptoms.

cindy dupuy
cindy dupuy
4 years 4 months ago

Mark~
I suffer from an eating disorder bulimia, and I for the life of me can’t stop! I have tried diets and eating small meals but being in collage my diet consist of sugars and carbs…I ate a steak for the first time in MONTHS and felt satisfied and didn’t binge.
Please help me if you can I am desperate!!
Thank you

MamaGrok
4 years 4 months ago
Cindy, what I wouldn’t give to have been told in college what I’m about to tell you. YOU KNOW THE ANSWER. The steak has already spoken. Sugar IS the cause of your bulimia. Right now, write down a plan to be able to get meat & eggs & natural fats in your diet. Sell your books, buy them used, live with a friend, sell your cousin, just do it. Then get up tomorrow morning and eat a HUGE FREAKING breakfast. All protein and fat. 3 eggs, four pieces of breakfast sausage, at least 50g of protein. Eat a nice piece… Read more »
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[…] There’s nothing quite so powerful as the urge to eat. Being living organisms that require sustenance and nutrition, we find it difficult to resist. It’s not like smoking, or sex, or drugs, which you can technically avoid and still live, because they aren’t really required for an individual’s survival. No, food is an absolute… Mark’s Daily Apple […]

Alexander
Alexander
4 years 4 months ago
I have one last question I hope Mark or anyone can answer. I am 24 years old extremely active, like 25,000 steps on an average day. My 40 hour a week job (in a stock room) keeps me on my feet for an average of 7.5 hours just at work, lifting boxes, and climbing stairs with heavy loads. I’m also an avid walker. I really enjoy it, sometimes I’ll walk to work, which is about 2.5 miles away from home. (Safe to say I have the move frequently at a slow pace part down…?) Mark (or anyone who would know)… Read more »
LJ
LJ
4 years 4 months ago
Wow that definitely sounds like part of the problem! I mean, I think anyone could reasonably eat and think they were satisfied, when you are moving at a slow pace, but if I were you I would get hungry later in the night too. Look, I hate to be blunt but are you trying to lose weight too. Because if you don’t fix this sleep thing that weight will come off temporarily but it will be nothing compared to -I think-your guilt, and not sleeping well. The solutions on here are great but there is no one size fits all… Read more »
LJ
LJ
4 years 4 months ago
Alexander-sorry to keep on you! But, I think the amount of carbs is your least problem. Seriously, the best thing I have found to stop bingeing-and I never knew others who had sleeping problems do this, but I do mine during the day and feel guilty-so I am in your same spot-is doing what mamagrok says-eating 4 eggs, 5 sausages, sometimes a filet of steak or fish, slathered in butter or coconut oil. If you are taking in a lot of fat and protein your body will not let you to binge. Your stomach stops ruling you. It took me… Read more »
LJ
LJ
4 years 4 months ago
sorry, I left out – the best thing is eating a HUGE breakfast, as mamamgrok advises – I will eat a huge piece of steak, hamburger, chicken, fish, eggs – but it’s amazing how full I feel all day and how this is the only thing that ever stopped me from bingeing. I feel very passionately about this issue, clearly. And Alexander, I know it’s tough for you with your job, probably, to know how much you need to be eating, but keep increasing your protein and fat at breakfast. The mood cure, the leptin reset – I think, as… Read more »
Alexander
Alexander
4 years 4 months ago

I actually used to weigh 305lbs as a teen, but slimmed down during my college years to 230. Going Primal has gotten me to 215 effortlessly, but I have love handles towards my back, and fat on my legs, besides having a lean upper body.

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[…] Night Eating Syndrome […]

Dalal
Dalal
4 years 4 months ago

This post is a god send I cannot tell you how long and hard I’ve tried to fight this “Night Eating Syndrome”. It is a B**** and its stopping me from losing this weight once and for all. In addition, the analysis of the hormones seems to be dead on and the source of why I cannot lose weight…

if I were to try to balance my adrenals and hypothyroidism does coffee inhibit that and cause more hunger due to the caffeine possible amplified effects by my body’s fight or flight response?

Rich
Rich
4 years 4 months ago

I’d get checked for parasites. I think this is something that should be talked about more.

You can do a simple wormwood/black walnut tincture (get a brand on Amazon with a higher average rating, and be sure to get the kind made with alcohol) for three weeks, and you will be amazed at what you pass.

Valerie
Valerie
4 years 4 months ago
Hi, I’ve suffered in the past with NES. I can happily say that I currently do not have this condition anymore and could not be happier! Here is a short version of my story: For many years I would wake 3-5 times a night to eat anything sugary and could not fall back asleep without doing so. I was sleep deprived, gained weight, became extremely depressed, etc.. I went to see a sleep specialist who prescribed me sleeping pills (which did not help at the time). A few years later I administered myself at the hospital for an eating disorder… Read more »
Evan
Evan
4 years 4 months ago

Hi Valerie,

Could you describe what your colon cleanse routine consisted of?

Also, so did you go straight no carb? I notice I do better w/ NES when i go lower carbs as well, but significant other says I get cranky when I work out w/o carbs (and generally low on calories in general)…hah!

Valerie
Valerie
4 years 4 months ago
Hi Evan, I will try and summarize this as best as possible! The first step for the colon cleanse consisted of avoiding sugar, yeast and vinegar. The first two weeks were very strict meaning I could not have any fruits, any tea or coffee, milk, as well as red meat. Protein was very important (just like Paleo), I was required to eat protein at every meal, and I also was required to alternate between rice, sweet potatoes and rice pasta for dinner. After 2 weeks I was able to incorporate 2 servings of fruits a day, tea, salsa & guacamole… Read more »
RenegadeRN
RenegadeRN
4 years 4 months ago

To Aek,

Reading your post triggered a thought about Hyperparathyroidism. You mention a lot of the symptoms.
Don’t know how old your are, but if you are over 30 , give or take , and have a serum calcium over 9.9, this just might be an issue.

Adults with healthy parathyroids have calcium levels in the “9’s”. Higher and fluctuating levels mean an issue.

People go for YEARS undiagnosed and feel like utter crap as a result. I know I did.

check out http://www.parathyroid.com if any of this resonates with you. Best of luck!

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4 years 4 months ago

[…] Dear Mark: Night Eating Syndrome – Mark’s Daily Apple […]

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[…] Posted by Bill on May 9, 2012 in ATXHealth Blog, For Twitter | 0 comments var addthis_product = 'wpp-264'; var addthis_config = {"data_track_clickback":true,"data_ga_property":"UA-31362503-1","data_ga_social":true,"data_track_addressbar":false};if (typeof(addthis_share) == "undefined"){ addthis_share = {"url_transforms":{"shorten":{"twitter":"bitly"}},"shorteners":{"bitly":{"login":"billamoore","apiKey":"R_0a77ebf5edda8b19828402e47f57d7d1"}}};}Night Eating Syndrome – Causes and Solutions | Mark’s Daily Apple. […]

Nicola
Nicola
4 years 4 months ago

Maybe this is why I had such trouble fasting.
I autoimmune problems, which has messed up my thyroid & stopped me ovulating.
I tried fasting to repair it all and it started really well – I really did lose my appetite and felt mentally alright at the start but the lack of energy just crushed me. I kept waiting for the rush everyone talks about but by day 10 of water fasting I couldn’t get out of bed or lift my head up and had to stop.
I would be very grateful for an explanation of why people with damaged HPA can’t fast.
Thanks

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