Is Eating Too Much At Night Keeping You Up?

Is Eating Too Much At Night Keeping You Up?

Filed Under: Overeating

21 August 2015 | Written by Xenia Ayiotis

Where has this year gone? It’s already October and as I write to you from Rotterdam in the Netherlands, the leaves have turned to those beautiful autumn shades and in my hometown in South Africa, the Jacaranda trees are blooming beautifully. I was never supposed to be here – it’s a long story that I will share another time. It has taught me (again) that life is certainly full of uncertainties and blessings come from unexpected places and people.

A common theme I have been working with clients on is night time overeating. Do you struggle with overeating at night? Don’t worry you are not alone. Many people struggle with this. There is no quick fix and to manage it we need self-awareness and self-compassion to deal with it. I hesitate to say “end” it, because I am not sure that it ever goes away entirely. If it does for me one day, I may use the phrase “end it.”

Firstly, overeating at night is not a problem, we view at as a problem because of diet culture and fear of weight gain. If we were accepting of the fact that during our lifetime our bodies will change, then we would probably not worry about it.

Does this sound like you? You come home from a long day and you go straight to the fridge… Somehow, something happens that the minute you walk in the door, you just want to eat! Or this could set it in later in the evening. The kind of night time eating I am talking about is generally not linked to hunger or it could be a result of over hunger.

What does overeating at night look like?

  • You come home and head straight for the kitchen, this could be as a way to transition to coming home or it could be because you haven’t eaten enough during the day so you are starving. It’s hard not to stop at stuffed if you’ve started eating at that starving point!
  • You taste and snack as you cook and by the time it’s dinner, you’re no longer hungry and you eat your entire meal until the point of discomfort, because you put all the effort into preparing the meal.
  • You find it hard to watch TV without eating and nibbling on something and while you are watching TV you are not really aware of the taste of the food or fullness in your body.
  • You only have one big meal a day and that’s at night.
  • You snack from the time you come home until you go to sleep, this could have multiple reasons which I’ll talk about next.
  • You bring out the treats secretly when everyone has gone to bed.
  • You snack before sleeping in case you wake up hungry.

Common reasons for overeating at night

There reasons we eat at night could be classified into 3 categories:


  • You skip meals during the day or you limit your food intake, so your body is ravenous by the time you get home.
  • You are so tired that you use food to keep you awake at night either to work or have some much needed “me” time.
  • You may be experiencing physical pain, a headache or back ache and eating helps to relieve the pain or distract you from it.


  • You are so stressed during the day that coming home to eat is a relief from the pressures of the day, it takes the edge off your anxiety – this can be done with food, wine and Netflix or a combination of all three.
  • Eating has become your only source of pleasure. If your needs are not being met and you are having very little fun and pleasure, food takes on new meaning.
  • You use food to unwind or to help you cope with difficult emotions like boredom, procrastination, loneliness or a sense of emptiness. Food can be away of filling the “gaps” or the hole in your heart.


Eating in response to unmet physical or emotional needs becomes habitual. The more you do it, the more your brain and nervous system needs it to soothe and or distract.

7 kind ways to manage night time eating

  1. Eat regularly and don’t restrict or deprive yourself during the day, because it will probably lead to overeating at night. Allow yourself your favourite foods with no guilt to prevent guilt-induced binge eating.
  2. If you are constantly reaching for food, it’s likely you have a very strong habit encoded in that part of your brain. If your instinct is to resist and try use willpower not to eat, unfortunately this can have the opposite effect by making food MORE desirable. Sadly, actively trying to resist food is not effective or sustainable and often makes eating more appealing. What you could try do instead is to delay for a few minutes, this pause allows you to sit in a moment of discomfort and can be the start of a new habit. After the few minutes have passed, you are welcome to eat and remember to acknowledge yourself for sitting in discomfort.
  3. Connect with your body. Get to know your hunger signals and try not let yourself get to that starving point. Connecting to your body also helps with awareness of emotions. Are you feeling hungry or anxious? Often anxiety is misunderstood for hunger.
  4. Identify your reasons for eating at night and find ways to deal with them. Is there a hidden need that you aren’t meeting? If it’s boredom or loneliness, find ways to relieve the boredom. If it’s stress, then find ways to relieve the stress through yoga, breathing and meditation.
  5. Give yourself permission to eat at night. Do it with awareness, curiosity and understanding. If you choose to eat, can you do it to a point that isn’t physically uncomfortable? Eating to a point of just “taking the edge off”?  The key aspect here is understanding and compassion. You are not eating at night because you are weak and lack willpower, there are other underlying reasons. Try and get to know those reasons.
  6. Try changing your routine and patterns when you come home. So instead of going straight to the fridge when you come home, put on your shoes and go for a walk or go and sit in the garden or whatever will help you feel a bit better.
  7. Try and incorporate more moments of self-care, pleasure, fun , nature and creativity into your life. This can be done in “bite-size” ways and doesn’t need to become another self-improvement project!

I really hope this helps give you an understanding of night time eating and that you could see it from a lens of self-compassion instead of self-judgment.

If you are interested in working with me, I have only 1 space left on my Food Freedom Course starting next week Wednesday or book a free 30-minute mini session and let’s talk about how I can help you.

Wishing you well,

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