Overdoing the late-night nosh

Some people get into an unhealthy pattern of nighttime eating. Depression or hormonal imbalances may be to blame.

Now and then many of us enjoy having a late-night snack. And remember Dagwood Bumstead's midnight forays into the kitchen for one of his humongous sandwiches? But for some people, evening eating is no laughing matter. They're trapped in a cycle of compulsive nighttime eating, a pattern labeled night eating syndrome (NES).

The causes are murky. Stress is often a trigger. Some research points to depression or hormonal imbalances. In small studies, people have been successfully treated with sertraline (Zoloft), an antidepressant, or topiramate (Topamax), an antiseizure medicine that is also used to prevent migraine headaches. Psychological strategies that break patterns of thinking or behavior that lead to night eating may also help.

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