A review of nighttime eating disorders

Sleep Med Rev. 2009 Feb;13(1):23-34. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2008.07.005. Epub 2008 Sep 25.


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.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / drug therapy
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / epidemiology
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / physiopathology
  • Fructose / analogs & derivatives
  • Fructose / therapeutic use
  • Homeostasis / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamus / physiopathology
  • Mass Screening
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Serotonin / physiology
  • Sertraline / therapeutic use
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / drug therapy
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / epidemiology
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / physiopathology
  • Topiramate


  • Anticonvulsants
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors
  • Topiramate
  • Fructose
  • Serotonin
  • Sertraline