I know about Night Eating Syndrome. I know what it's like to get up in the middle of the night - every night - to march in a zombie-like trance to my kitchen in methodical searches for the "white flour/white sugar" treasures in my pantry. I know what it's like to eat, continually chewing, biting, chewing, and biting until everything is gone. I know what it's like to step on the crumbs, some very big crumbs, on the floor as I stand up from where I've seated myself to "chow" and let more crumbs fall upon the floor to join the others. I've never tried to pick up those crumbs and eat them... although; if I had thought of it I might have done it.

No concept of how much food I've just ingested registers in my mind. Perhaps I'll go to the bathroom, but generally "not," as I proceed one foot in front of the other, back to the bed, as if programmed to complete each step fully before taking the next, I crawl into bed and pull the covers over me in one smooth move as I did when I emerged, sitting up and throwing back the covers in one svelte move. I sleep, but dream immediately.

Within an hour I repeat the entire transaction. Nothing varies except where I leave my crumbs. That varies according to the intensity of my exhaustion. I may awake with the crumbs still in my mouth because I ate in my bed lying down while I was falling back asleep. Or... the crumbs could be found on my night table or pillowcase. Sometimes candy wrappers are found in my bed, beneath my covers, sometimes still in my grasp. And then again, I'm asleep and dreaming immediately. I have no normal sleep pattern.

In the daytime my essence of being drowns in the daytime recognition of what was eaten the night before. There is shame, guilt, frustration, hurt, searing pain in my heart, and DISGUST abounds in capital letters. The disgust seems to cling to every bit of your being, like a thin layer of translucent slime. It's always there and it exudes the mouth watering feeling of intense nausea like right before you vomit.

Being a night eater always means being so totally out of control that you can't do anything but comply. The demons hidden deep within are calling to you but you're in denial, you rationalize, you float in self pity, some blame and burst into a daily self destructive description of their own despicable ways. Either way, the night eater is always a failure of some proportions and always unhappy with what they see in the mirror, what they compel the scale to stop on and who they are. They hate themselves more than anyone could ever hate anyone.

I believe it all stems from early childhood trauma, relationship dysfunction throughout life, continual unresolved traumas combined with depression and maybe even another anxiety disorder. Unresolved emotions and feelings are roiling within as one tries to keep away from food all day long to make up for the night time scourge of all sweets, treats and no-no's that lie for someone else in the kitchen. It's those poor kids or a slim spouse that likes that occasional snack to always be there when they're ready for it... but you eat them all... the guilt begins, the poor kids, the jealousy over the normal eating spouse... it never stops.

Each negative factor feeds the next. Exhaustion feeds it all. It's the fuel that keeps the fires burning within the night eater. There is no energy for positivity and hope. There's no choice for someone who is so sleep deprived that they've resorted to naps in the daytime because they can't stay awake no matter where they are.

I've been a night eater with insomnia and a night eater with narcolepsy. I believe our inability to cope with anything begins to meld with our sleep deprivation until our mind resorts to attacking the night eater at the brains weakest moments - when it's time to sleep. The brain doesn't get it's time to go through normal sleep cycles. The brain doesn't get it's time to do its business with our file system of memories. Our brain doesn't have time to re-evaluate what's needed for personal protection of the self, or what chemicals may need re-stocking for optimal performance.

Many with night eating syndrome experience restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea and other sleep disorders. I, myself experience increasingly unbearable sleep apnea as my weight climbed and restless leg syndrome depending upon my anxiety levels in the daytime. These factors all revolved around the symptoms of night eating and the increasing volume of nightly awakenings.

There is hope no matter what you believe about this syndrome. It's terribly difficult to achieve control, but it's possible. I have tried to compare recovery from night eating syndrome to being in a mine that has caved in. You're at the bottom, working up through the muck and mire of your life. You must tackle issue after issue until you've controlled as many factors as possible. You must make the first meaningful commitment of your life for your own sake and for your own well being.

You MUST first study the word commitment and truly realize the meaning of the word. You can't quit. You must learn about "positive thinking" and "living in the present moment." You must arm yourself with the tools that are available to you - free - at no cost - but sweat equity and hard work. You can never consider quitting. You must study the word "determination." You can continue night eating, and you will continue night eating, but you must arm yourself with knowledge, understanding and the most serious commitment you will ever make in your life. There are no other options but to continue.

You must learn something new everyday about yourself. You must learn something new everyday about mental health, lifestyle factors, emotions, feelings and the enormous wealth of tools there are out there for you to battle against the night eating urge. You must become "aware and mindful." You must become "grateful." You must learn about yourself and love yourself - or at least try to. You must learn relaxation breathing and relaxation techniques. You can never say, "I can't do that." or "That never works for me." You must "make it work" for you.

You must learn about your past, understand where you developed your belief system, and learn about how the brain develops and how you think. You must learn about attitudes and setting goals and making plans to achieve those goals. You must do these things because if you don't, you will fail. If you fail, you will begin to live in the night eating cycle again. With each thing you learn you are tearing down part of the cycle, but if you quit, you go back to "go" and you don't collect $200 or even get to sit in jail.

Lastly, you must find your niche in helping others. You must find your passion. You must work daily for others, forgetting yourself long enough to not think about guilt, shame or how disgusting you are. The more you help others, the more you will replace the guilt with confidence. The more you help others, the more you will smile instead of crying tears of frustration. The more you help others the more you will be loved and be able to love yourself for doing something that is good, positive and something that helped someone. You've done something worthwhile, which makes you feel that you are actually good for something.

I believe that many night eaters can't do it because they don't want to quit hating themselves. It's frustrating being the moderator of a support group for night eaters who are actively night eating, when you've stopped night eating. It's the difference between night and day. It's the difference between hate and love. You must make the choice. Many boomers, baby boomers that is, have never known about choices. I was raised not being able to express or experience emotions and feelings. I was always inadequate. I never did what my parents wanted me to do to cast the appearance of the American family girl.

My body didn't fit my mother's expectations. My hair wasn't the right color. I was taught to clean house and take care of kids. I was encouraged to learn how to cook and how to eat all the cookies and goodies I made so no one else would eat them and gain weight. My father was absent and when he finally touched down at "ground control" he was drinking and self absorbed. I was the everyday American Mannequin of a daughter. I did what I wanted to do and no one cared what it was. No matter how much I acted out negatively, it wasn't noticed.

Night eaters need support. Find yourself a solid support system or two or three. Most of all know this.... You will not find a "quit night eating" pill or treatment. You will have to do all of the above to get beneath the control of that crazy night eating URGE. You must grow big enough inside of yourself that you have all the power back. You must retain your power and control and use it to keep yourself safe.

Visit night eating... the address is below in the bio!

Author's Bio: 

Original Article submitted in October 2007, but somehow replaced by article by Lori Henry

Kathleen Howe would like to invite you to visit her night eating website within her network of sites. Once a night eater, now the host of a support group for night eaters at Yahoo groups. night eating 101. http://nighteating.tripod.com/11/index.html