Night eating syndrome: a critical review of the literature

Clin Psychol Rev. 2012 Feb;32(1):49-59. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2011.11.001. Epub 2011 Nov 9.


Clinical psychologists are increasingly called to participate in the treatment of obesity, a condition that affects about one-third of adults in the United States. A disorder gaining increased recognition for its role in the development and maintenance of obesity is Night Eating Syndrome (NES), a relatively novel disorder involving morning anorexia, evening hyperphagia and/or nocturnal ingestions, and insomnia. NES affects men and women from various racial groups and tends to run in families. NES tends to co-occur with mood, anxiety, eating, sleep, and substance use disorders and may have implications for weight and diabetes management. Relatively little is known about the successful treatment of NES. Limited evidence suggests that serotonergic-based pharmacological treatments may be beneficial. Psychological interventions, such as psychoeducation, eating modification, relaxation strategies, sleep hygiene, cognitive restructuring, physical activity, and social support facilitation may also yield beneficial results. The purpose of the present paper is to provide an introduction to NES, including diagnosis, clinical presentation, assessment, comorbidities, clinical implications, and pharmacological and psychological treatment approaches. Areas for further study and development are discussed. NES is an emerging area for clinical description, evaluation, and intervention.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / diagnosis
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Depression / psychology
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperphagia / diagnosis*
  • Hyperphagia / psychology
  • Male
  • Obesity / diagnosis*
  • Obesity / psychology
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / psychology
  • Stress, Psychological / diagnosis
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Syndrome