Night eating syndrome: an overview

J Pharm Pharmacol. 2012 Jan;64(1):2-10. doi: 10.1111/j.2042-7158.2011.01353.x. Epub 2011 Sep 27.


Objectives: The purpose of this review is to outline the nosographic characteristics of NES and the most reliable ethiopathogenetic theories in relation to the most recent evidence in the literature.

Key findings: The night eating syndrome (NES) is a disorder occurring at the stated time, that does not meet the criteria for any specific eating disorder. NES is characterized by a reduced feeding during the day, evening hyperphagia accompanied by frequent nocturnal awakenings associated with conscious episodes of compulsive ingestion of food and abnormal circadian rhythms of food and other neuroendocrine factors. Frequently it is associated with obesity and depressed mood. We highlight the therapeutic possibilities of some drugs, especially selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which reduce the hyperactivity of the serotonin transporter in NES and significantly improve the clinical picture of this disease.

Conclusions: Night eating syndrome is of importance clinically because of its association with obesity. The recognition and effective treatment of NES may be an increasingly important way to treat a subset of the obese population. Treatment of the syndrome, however, is still in its infancy. One clinical trial has reported efficacy with the SSRI sertraline. Other treatments, such as the anticonvulsant topiramate, phototherapy, and other SSRIs, may also offer future promise. Particularly useful would be studies involving brain scans (magnetic resonance imaging or single-photon emission computed tomography) of patients with NES compared with the healthy population, to investigate more thoroughly the possible alterations involved in the pathogenesis of NES.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / complications*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / therapy
  • Humans
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Serotonin Agents / therapeutic use
  • Syndrome


  • Serotonin Agents