Home Medizin Der Zusammenhang zwischen zirkadianem Rhythmus und Nachtessenssyndrom

Der Zusammenhang zwischen zirkadianem Rhythmus und Nachtessenssyndrom

von NFI Redaktion

In a recent study published in Nutrients, researchers examined the symptoms of Night Eating Syndrome (NES) in people of Greek descent and their potential associations with the circadian rhythm.

The study focused on three different chronotypes: morning, intermediate, and evening chronotypes. People with a morning chronotype usually prefer early bedtime and early waking, as opposed to evening types who perform better later in the day.

A better understanding of the symptoms of NES can be helpful in developing tailored chronotherapy treatments, which aim to alleviate NES symptoms and reduce their negative impact on overall health.

The link between circadian rhythm and night eating syndrome. Source: Stock-Asso/Shutterstock.com

Study: Beat the Clock: Assessment of Night Eating Syndrome and Circadian Rhythm in a Sample of Greek Adults. Image Source: Stock-Asso/Shutterstock.com


Night Eating Syndrome (NES) is a form of Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED) characterized by excessive food intake in the evening and nighttime hours at least twice a week.

People with this disorder are often obese or overweight, have poor sleep, and experience depression. They also feel a compulsion to eat upon waking at night.

Studies have shown a link between the circadian (meaning „around“ and „day“) system and energy metabolism, with the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) playing a central role in this phenomenon. It regulates the sleep-wake cycle, hormone secretion, and body temperature to synchronize the circadian clock with the external environment.

Any disruption in the circadian rhythm, known as chronodisruption, manifests in metabolic disorders such as increased blood pressure, obesity, and elevated fasting blood sugar.

Its misalignment with insufficient sleep can also impair brain function and worsen metabolic and sleep disorders.

About the Study

For the current study, researchers used a limited sample of 533 adults from Greece and Cyprus to investigate NES symptoms and their association with chronotype.

Participants were recruited online through social media, and data collection began in May 2021, lasting until July 2021. After obtaining informed consent from each participant to take part in the survey, the team collected data from them, keeping it anonymous.

All participants recruited for this study completed the Night Eating Questionnaire (NEQ) with 14 questions, each contributing to the total NEQ score, which ranged from zero to 52.

A NEQ score of more than 25 points indicated a confirmed NES, while a score of ≥30 indicated high specificity.

Overall, the NEQ helped assess the psychometric properties and severity of NES, although a positive screening did not always align with the NES diagnosis.

The team used another questionnaire called „Sleep, Circadian Rhythms, and Mood“ (SCRAM) to evaluate the circadian rhythm, sleep quality, and mood of each participant.

Participants self-reported their weight and height, which assisted the team in calculating their Body Mass Index (BMI). BMI ≥ 25 kg/m2 and < 30 kg/m2 indicated overweight, and BMI ≥ 30 kg/m2 suggested obesity.

The team used independent sample t-tests to determine gender-specific variations between continuous variables, a chi-square test to examine differences between categorical values, and logistic regression models to investigate the relationship between the NEQ and the SCRAM questionnaire at both total and subscale levels.

Finally, they used Cronbach’s α to assess the internal reliability of the instruments used, with values > 0.6 and > 0.8 indicating an acceptable level of reliability and a good fit, respectively.


The authors observed a trend towards a higher NES-positive screening in overweight and obese people compared to those with normal body weight, although the overall NEQ and SCRAM raw scores were comparable across different BMI categories.

As a result, the prevalence of NES was relatively high: 17.8% (NEQ threshold ≥ 25) and 8.1% of participants (NEQ threshold ≥ 30) were diagnosed with NES.

The mean NEQ for the sample was 18.0 ± 7.4, with no differences observed between genders. In sub-analyses, there was no association between NES and BMI or NES and participants‘ gender.

Using the NEQ threshold ≥ 30, NES incidence was positively associated with the morning chronotype. However, the average total SCRAM score of the sample was moderate, suggesting that most participants had the intermediate chronotype.

Furthermore, there was a negative association between SCRAM and „Good Sleep,“ and each point increase in the depression score increased the likelihood of NES by 6%. Thus, depression appears to largely influence NES symptoms.


The study’s sample size did not allow for generalizations, thus further investigation is needed to understand if the increased NES symptoms observed in this study were limited to the Greek population at a specific point in time.

Furthermore, the finding that NES was associated with the morning chronotype may be an artifact due to the relatively low internal validity of the SCRAM questionnaire. Therefore, further research is needed to test the tool in more generalizable samples and determine its test-retest reliability as well as its predictive and discriminant validity.

Overall, NES remains an independent clinical entity that requires further investigation into its pathophysiology and management.

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