Explore the Individuals Experience of Night Eating Syndrome and How it Affects Their Life Research Proposal

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Night Eating

Explore The Individuals Experience Of Night Eating Syndrome And How It Affects Their Life

Night Eating Syndrome

The Individual's Experience of Night Eating Syndrome and how it Affects Their Life


The problem of night eating syndrome has become a focus of research in recent years largely due to the debate about its relationship to various eating disorders and obesity. This syndrome has also been linked to aspects of the individual's life experience with regard to the prevalence of anxiety and stress in many cases. Recent research has found a possible causative link between stress and tension as well as psychological factors such as depression, and the onset of night eating syndrome. This has led to a research concern with the experiences of those who suffer for this syndrome and to the way that it impacts and affects their daily lived. It is also clear for a survey of the literature that there is as relative paucity of research in this area. This proposal will therefore focus on this concern and will attempt to explore and interrogate the individuals' experience of night eating syndrome and the way it affects their lives.


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The condition known as night eating syndrome is a comparative newcomer to the arena of research in eating disorders and obesity. There has in the last decade been an increased research interest in this syndrome as it has been linked by many experts to other eating disorders and obesity. Its prevalence is also as matter of medical concern. One study notes that, "Perhaps as many as 6 million Americans suffer night eating syndrome, or NES…. (Overcoming Night Eating Syndrome: A Step-by-step Guide to Breaking the Cycle).

TOPIC: Research Proposal on Explore the Individuals Experience of Night Eating Syndrome and How it Affects Their Life Assignment

The present proposed study of night eating syndrome is not only intended to provide an overview of the cardinal aspects of this condition but also to explore the experiences of those who suffer from this syndrome and the impact that it has on their lives. One of the central aspects that will be a focus of attention is this study is the predominance of stress and anxiety in these individuals -- which is an aspect that is in need of further research in order to ascertain the underlying causative features of the syndrome. A second important focus and one that contributes to the life experience of the individual, is the close link of this condition and obesity.


Night Eating Syndrome is generally described as a condition that is characterized by the compulsion to consume more than half of one's daily calorie intake after the evening meal. This is usually accompanied by 'morning anorexia' or a lack of any appetite for the breakfast meal. This condition is also associated with insomnia and waking up during the night to eat. Furthermore, this condition has become a focus of recent research because of its link to obesity and other health issues. For instance, it is noted that "Foods eaten during the nighttime binge are often high caloric in content and unhealthy." There are a number of comorbid aspects to this condition. One of the most significant in terms of the main theme of this study is depression and anxiety conditions that are also seen as contributory and causative factors in this condition. Other causative features of this condition include the finding that there is a reduction of certain hormones in sufferers. This includes a decrease in melatonin that has been attributed to sleep disturbances.

An accepted definition of this condition is as follows:

Night eating syndrome (NES)… occurs when the normally synchronous patterns of energy intake and sleep become disrupted; the result of this dysynchrony is a relative phase delay between the disordered eating patterns and the normal sleep-wake cycles ( Townsend, 2007, p. 217).

This definition places emphasis on the disruption of normal sleeping and eating cycles. This dysynchrony raises the question of causation and is also related to the experiential situation of the patient who has this condition.

The term Night Eating Syndrome was coined by Strunkard in 1955 and was described as a disorder that composed "….the triad of morning anorexia, evening or nocturnal hyperphagia (in full con- sciousness), and insomnia" (Fairburn & Brownell, 2002, p. 183). An important early finding that has significance for modern research is that "… it occurred disproportionately among obese persons" (Fairburn & Brownell, 2002, p. 183). This is an important factor that is often debated in the literature. As one study notes, "More significant is the further finding that more than 33% of morbidly obese individuals -- persons who are 100 or more pounds overweight -- are affected by this disorder" (Night Eating).

Even more significant in terms of the present study, is that Strunkard found that this condition was associated with periods of stress and that it also responds well to the alleviation of stress (Fairburn & Brownell, 2002, p. 183). This is an extremely important facet of the disorder, as it tends to suggest the role that stress and anxiety play in the life experience of the individual who suffers from the disorder. Furthermore, Strunkard found that, "The night eating syndrome appeared to be a special circadian stress response characteristic of some obese persons" (Fairburn & Brownell, 2002, p. 183).

The significance of stress and tension in the life of the individual with this condition is well documented in the literature. As a study by Thayer ( 2003) states,

Overeating as a way of seeking energy and feeling better when faced with unpleasant anxiety or tension is most likely to occur when resources drop -- for example, late in the afternoon or at night. One pattern of this type of overeating, first observed in the 1950s by Albert Stunkard, has been the subject of numerous scientific papers. ( Thayer, 2003, p. 119)

Thayer also notes that night-eating syndrome is not currently classified in DSM-IV as an eating disorder. This is an area of debate that will also be explored in the present study as the condition has been closely associated with obesity (Thayer, 2003, p. 118).

Thayer also refers to the experience of the individual and to the importance of stress and tension as a factor in the life experience of the individual. "Several researchers have identified stress and evening tension as influences on night-eating syndrome" (Thayer, 2003, p. 119).

A central approach in the present study will be to adopt a holistic view of this condition. In order to understand the life situation and the experience of the person who suffers from the syndrome one has to understand the comorbid and concomitant features of the condition. It also becomes clear from the literature that this is an extremely debilitating condition.

Prevalence and Demographics

In recent years, research has indicted that this disorder is more prevalent than was previously thought. There are however many different reports on the issue of prevalence and on demographic issues. In one study, for example, the researcher states that;

The prevalence of NES varies widely, depending on the population under study and on the diagnostic criteria used to classify it. The best prevalence estimate of NES in the general population is 1,5%."The prevalence of NES rises dramatically among the obese, with prevalence rates of about 9%.8 Prevalence does not appear to differ by gender or ethnicity and, although rarer, NES does occur among nonobese persons

(Lundgren, 2006)

The debate on this issue will be dealt with in more detail in proposed study.

Literature Review

The literature on this topic began proliferating in the 1900s, when the association between night eating syndrome and eating disorders and obesity were investigated. In order to understand the impact that this syndrome has on the individual it is firstly necessary to investigate the development, background and the various theoretical stances that have been attributed to this syndrome. Therefore, this literature review was divided into two sections; the background and overview to this condition and literature that reflected the living experience of the individual suffering from this condition. However, it should also be borne in mind that these two aspects invariably overlap and there are many books and articles that include both of these dimensions.

The literature for this project was sourced from a wide array of databases and online as well as offline resource areas. These included databases such as Ebscohost, Questia, Google Scholar and many others. An attempt was made cover the field as widely as possible to include aspects such causative factors, as well as comorbid factors such as depression and stress.

General Background and Overview

One of the more useful general studies of this subject is Logue (2004), the Psychology of Eating and Drinking. This study provides a comprehensive overview of the origins of the term night eating syndrome and insight into some of the more recent studies and research. Importantly, the study deals with the psychological dimensions of this condition and refers in particular to depression as a consequence of anxiety in the life experience of the individual. The study also differentiates between the psychological effects of… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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