×

Please Remove Adblock
Adverts are the main source of Revenue for DoveMed. Please remove adblock to help us create the best medical content found on the Internet.

How Can I Avoid Midnight Snacking?

Last updated Nov. 10, 2016

Eating late at night or midnight snacking has the potential of being the culprit of several health problems. The first step to stopping late night snacking is to find the cause of midnight snacking.


Eating late at night or midnight snacking has the potential of being the culprit of several health problems. The body’s internal clock regulates energy expenditure or how our body burns-off calories. Late night snacking can be very tempting if one is doing late-night work, or staying up with friends. However, it is not recommended to eat too late.

The first step to stopping late night snacking is to find the cause of midnight snacking. Individuals can snack for the following reasons:

  • Habit: Some people pick up the habit of midnight snacking purely out of routine.
  • Hunger: Some individuals may not have eaten properly throughout the day and may choose to eat at night.
  • Boredom: In order to occupy or pass time, we sometimes tend to fill our mouths with foods.
  • Nervousness or emotional eating: Sometimes, an emotional stress or a nervous state can make us want to eat late into the night.
  • Sleepwalking: Some individuals have eating-sleep disorders, where they eat while they are asleep.

In order to understand and assess the negative health issues associated with late night snacking, researchers had two groups of mice eat high-fat diets. One group of mice had access to eating food 24 hours a day, while the other group ate during an eight-hour time span. Both of the groups were fed regular chow instead of high-fat diets. After 100 days, the weights of the mice and their metabolic profiles were compared.

Even though both experimental groups consumed the same amount of calories, the mice that ate throughout the entire day had a number of health problems. This group of mice experienced weight gain, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, liver damage, and even motor problems when put to an exercise challenge. The group of mice that were only allowed to eat during the eight-hour window weighed 28% less than the group that ate throughout the day. This experiment showed that the timing of eating was important with respect to one’s health.

If you are among those individuals who tend to indulge in midnight snacking, try and form a new habit to replace the midnight eating habit. Individuals who experience midnight hunger because they have not gotten enough to eat during the day should try to eat a satisfying dinner a while before their sleeping time. If you still feel hungry during the evening, try eating a piece of fruit and drinking herbal tea. Such choices are very low in calories and high in fiber. It can also help you feel full for longer periods of time.

Additional Resource:

Hatori, M., Vollmers, C., Zarrinpar, A., DiTacchio, L., Bushong, E. A., Gill, S., ... & Panda, S. (2012). Time-restricted feeding without reducing caloric intake prevents metabolic diseases in mice fed a high-fat diet. Cell metabolism, 15(6), 848-860.

Scheer, F. A., Morris, C. J., & Shea, S. A. (2013). The internal circadian clock increases hunger and appetite in the evening independent of food intake and other behaviors. Obesity (Silver Spring), 21(3), 421-423. doi: 10.1002/oby.20351

http://medweb.mit.edu/pdf/late-night-eating.pdf (accessed on 12/02/2014)

http://www.bidmc.org/YourHealth/TherapeuticCenters/WeightManagement.aspx?ChunkID=156995 (accessed on 12/02/2014)

Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:

Colles, S. L., Dixon, J. B., & O'brien, P. E. (2007). Night eating syndrome and nocturnal snacking: association with obesity, binge eating and psychological distress. International journal of obesity, 31(11), 1722-1730.

Nelson, M. C., Kocos, R., Lytle, L. A., & Perry, C. L. (2009). Understanding the perceived determinants of weight-related behaviors in late adolescence: a qualitative analysis among college youth. Journal of nutrition education and behavior, 41(4), 287-292.

Nelson, M. C., Kocos, R., Lytle, L. A., & Perry, C. L. (2009). Understanding the perceived determinants of weight-related behaviors in late adolescence: a qualitative analysis among college youth. Journal of nutrition education and behavior, 41(4), 287-292.

Chapelot, D. (2011). The role of snacking in energy balance: a biobehavioral approach. The Journal of nutrition, 141(1), 158-162.

Gallant, A. R., Lundgren, J., & Drapeau, V. (2012). The night‐eating syndrome and obesity. Obesity reviews, 13(6), 528-536.

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: Nov. 10, 2016
Last updated: Nov. 10, 2016