5 Reasons You Keep Overeating at Night

Overeating At Night Can Be A Hard Habit To Break

It’s predictable. Whether it’s before or after dinner, Christina regularly finds herself staring into the refrigerator or pantry, looking for something to eat. She’s not sure she’s really hungry but it feels like she needs to eat. 

Does that scenario sound familiar? It seems all your resolve to eat well crumbles once you get home from work or school, or after you put the kids to bed, night after night?

Overeating at night is a common cause of weight gain and it can feel like a very hard habit to break.

What Is Night Eating?

For many women, night eating looks like:

  • Snacking from the moment you get home to the moment you go to bed.
  • Waking in the middle of the night and eating to help you fall back asleep.
  • Having one huge meal at the end of the day.
  • Being unable to watch TV without a food companion.

5 Reasons You Eat At Night

If you struggle with night eating, the reasons might be easier to identify and change than you think. Often, it can result from:

  1. You’re not eating enough during the day.
  2. You’re using it to mask stress, loneliness, boredom, procrastination, or other unpleasant feelings.
  3. You aren’t having enough fun and food is what you look forward to most at the end of the day.
  4. You’re a creature of habit.
  5. It’s hard for you to get a good night’s rest.

Feel familiar? Is overeating at night a struggle for you?

If any of these sound like you, Green Mountain has suggestions on how to eliminate the triggers that cause you to overeat at night.

Read more about nighttime eating triggers >

12 responses to “5 Reasons You Keep Overeating at Night”

  1. For me, wanting to eat out of mouth hunger (not physical) is a signal that my body needs rest. I’ve decided that past 9pm it is very challenging for me to make clear decisions around food, so often times I make the decision to just got to bed.

  2. Shannon says:

    Those all sound very familiar. I have a tendency to restrict a bit during the day. I also feel like my emotions come crashing down in the evenings, particularly when I have any alone time. Eating snacks after dinner is also a major habit!

  3. Robyn says:

    I love using mouth hunger as a prompt to reflect on whether or not you are tired, very insightful! @Shannon – can you identify ways you could make your meals/snacks a little more frequent/substantial earlier in the day? Could you try to work techniques for managing emotional triggers into your daily routine versus putting that off to the end of the day? That seems like the best place to start before trying to tackle the after-dinner snacking.

  4. Diana says:

    Some of those are familiar to me. The problem is, I really enjoy that time of the day…even though I will be feeling sick the next day.

  5. Robyn Priebe says:

    Hi Diana, it’s easy to default to the things that make us feel good in the moment, even when we know there will be negative consequences in the future; I TOTALLY understand that. The trick is finding other things that give you that same feeling of relaxing, winding down, managing emotional triggers, or just producing those feel-good chemicals we create when we eat. Even if we don’t like the final outcome, this routine of night-time eating has some benefits and discovering things that can provide that same benefit is essential if one wants to resort to food less often.

  6. mary says:

    there is a link to being tired and eating….During the day it is easier to just say “no” but at night I tend to relax and let down and then “go to town with food”!

  7. Kim says:

    How do we Identify emotional triggers?

  8. Dana says:

    I do well ALL day….then the TV becomes my companion, one that satisfies my OCD and ADHD: I can amass many shows and eat at the same time. And during commercials, which I hate, I’ll clean the house.

  9. Caroline says:

    I go to bed around midnight, but often wake up at 2-3 a.m. and the only thing I can do to get back to sleep is eat or take a Valium. I’d rather eat (yogurt, cereal, toast) than take a pill. At 5’1″ and 155, I need to do something else!

    • Marsha Hudnall, MS, RDN, CD says:

      Have you tried meditating, Caroline? It helps a lot of people who struggle with waking in the middle of the night.

  10. Mary says:

    it’s comforting to me to realize other people struggle with night eating, I thought it was just me! I am starting to keep a simple journal at night, just a observation of what eat, what activities do, emotions and time of bed. It’s not a way to feel guilty just a way to be more mindful eating at night…

    • Marsha Hudnall, MS, RDN, CD says:

      Great to hear you have disconnected guilt from eating, Mary. That’s a really important step forward for many of us! All best to you.

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