A review of nighttime eating disorders

Michael J. Howell, Carlos H. Schenck, Scott J. Crow

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

106 Scopus citations


Nighttime eating is categorized as either night eating syndrome (NES) or sleep-related eating disorder (SRED). These conditions represent an interruption in the overnight fast that characterizes human sleep. A critical review of the literature on NES and SRED will suggest that they are situated at opposite poles of a disordered eating spectrum. NES could be considered an abnormality in the circadian rhythm of meal timing with a normal circadian timing of sleep onset. Conversely, the feeding behavior in SRED is characterized by recurrent episodes of eating after an arousal from nighttime sleep with or without amnesia. Both conditions are often relentless and chronic. Multiple definitions of night eating have limited our ability to determine the exact prevalence of NES. Studies have suggested that central nervous system (CNS) serotonin modulation may lead to an effective treatment of NES. SRED is frequently associated with other sleep disorders, in particular parasomnias. Early studies have shown that the anti-seizure medication topiramate may be an effective treatment for SRED.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-34
Number of pages12
JournalSleep Medicine Reviews
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2009

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2009 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Eating disorder
  • Insomnia
  • Night eating syndrome
  • Nocturnal eating
  • Obesity
  • Parasomnia
  • Sertraline
  • Sleep-related eating disorder
  • Topiramate
  • Zolpidem

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