How to Stop Night Eating
Do you ever feel like you can’t go to sleep unless you eat a ton of food even if you’ve had a balance dinner? Do you lie awake thinking about food, unable to relax until your belly is so full that you pass out into a food coma? Do you find yourself up late at night grazing through cupboards, or even waking up in the middle of the night and finding that you can’t go back to sleep without eating something? If so, you’re not alone.
Night Eating Syndrome (NES) affects millions of people in this country. Although it can be similar to binge eating- it can also differ in that there is not always a gigantic binge, but several episodes of grazing throughout the night. NES often corresponds with anxiety and insomnia. There are theories that for people with NES, serotonin levels decrease in the evening causing snacking on heavily carbohydrate laden foods to help the body relax and get ready for bed.
Though it’s challenging, the following steps can help train your brain on how to stop night eating:
1. The first thing I ask people when I know that they are struggling with night eating is “are you getting enough food throughout the day?” and “Are you struggling with trying to be good during the day only to “ruin” all your “good work” from the day with an evening binge? If so, your daytime strategies of morally pure eating might be contributing to your binges. When you loosen the reins during the day and allow yourself to eat what your body wants and needs, you are less likely to binge at night when the guards are tired and asleep at the gate.
Make sure that you are getting at least three, hearty and healthy meals each day with snacks when you need them.
Definitely make sure to eat breakfast. This can help to establish healthy daytime eating patterns to ensure that blood sugar and serotonin levels remain steady throughout the day.
Generally, many people with NES are afraid to eat normally during the day since they get most of their calories at night. The irony is however, that if you eat during the day, you might find that you need less food in the evenings. Just ensuring that you are getting appropriate and proper nutrition during the day can help you stop night eating.
2.Consider a high fat, high protein snack such as full-fat Greek yogurt or a glass of whole milk in the evening to quell sugar cravings and increase tryptophan levels. My favorite it Coconut Cream Chocolate Pudding. This has a good mixture of fat and carbohydrates that will stave off sugar cravings and lull you into a nice sleep. To make this put coconut cream into a blender with 3-4 medjool dates and a tablespoon of sugar free cocoa. Blend it all together for 2-3 minutes. You’ll have a nourishing desert that will also prevent binges.
3. Keep a journal next to your bed and each night, before you go to sleep, write in it. Write about your day, your fears, anxiety, anger, sadness, joy, excitement, whatever, just write and move your emotions through you.
4. Relax in a hot bath with Epsom salts for about 20 minutes prior to bed. Hot water is good medicine and the epsom salts will relax your muscles to ensure restful sleep.
5. If you wake up in the middle of the night, before you get out of bed, grab for your journal and write in it. You might write your dreams, your thoughts, your anxiety… whatever it is, just get it out and then lay back down.
7. Put a piece of duct tape across your bedroom door so that you don’t unconsciously get up and walk to the kitchen. The tape will snap you out of your trance so that you can bring some consciousness to the choice to get up and go eat.
8. Put a large BREATHE sign on or in your refrigerator so that you can remember to stop, take a breath and think about what you’re doing, think about whether you are hungry or just doing this out of habit.
9. If it makes you feel safer, consider a lock or timer on your refrigerator or cupboards. This is not to restrict you, it’s to help you feel safe- if you know that you don’t have access to food, you might just stay in bed and get the sleep you need rather than spending time rummaging through the refrigerator or cupboards for food. If it feels restrictive or punishing, don’t do it. This is not to punish you, this is to help you find safety in your house.
11. Talk to your doctor, acupuncturist or Naturopath about taking a supplement such as Magnesium Gluconate, LOW DOSE melatonin, tryptophan, 5-HTP, Relora or GABA at night to increase calm, decrease night eating behaviors and help with sleep.
12. Try this guided meditation for insomnia.
Learning to stop night eating is challenging because it is so unconscious, but helping your body and mind relax while increasing consciousness of the behavior can help quell it.