If a person wakes up hungry during the night, they may not have eaten enough during the day or changed their routine to get more exercise. Alternatively, a person may not be getting enough sleep, or they may have night eating syndrome.
Feelings of hunger are, in part, governed by the circadian rhythm — physical and mental changes that correspond with a daily cycle of light and darkness.
The circadian rhythm triggers the body to release certain hormones, some of which make a person feel hungry. According to an
However, there are various reasons why a person can wake up feeling hungry, either in the morning or during the night.
If a person does not consume enough food during the day, they may wake up feeling hungry.
According to the
Daily calorie needs for adults ages 31–59 are generally lower — 1,600–2,200 calories for females and 2,200–3,000 calories for males.
If a person consumes too few calories, they may wake up hungry. Hunger is often the body’s signal that it needs more energy to make up for the amount of calories that it is burning.
If a person starts getting more exercise, they are likely burning more calories. Exercise takes up far more energy than other activities. Unless a person makes up the difference by consuming more calories during the day, they may wake up hungry.
Replacing an old exercise routine with a new one can have the same effect, even if there does not seem to be an increase in physical activity.
According to a
If a person who wakes up hungry is eating enough during the day and generally getting enough sleep, they may have a disorder that falls into the diagnostic category Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED).
According to the National Eating Disorders Association, OSFED is a serious, catch-all category that can include night eating syndrome. This usually causes a person to regularly wake up needing to eat during the night.
So far, there is clinical evidence that the following types of treatment can help
- cognitive behavior therapy (CBT)
- antidepressants (such as sertraline)
- progressive muscle relaxation, combined with exercise
- bright light therapy
It may not be immediately clear why a person is waking up hungry. They may need to use a trial-and-error approach to discover the cause of this experience and how to change it.
An individual may benefit from monitoring their calorie intake during the day to make sure that they are meeting the
If a person eats early in the evening, they may benefit from pushing their mealtime back a little later.
Also, it is important to get at least 7 hours of sleep per night. This is the minimum amount that
If a person cannot stop from waking up hungry or regularly wakes up in the middle of the night to eat, they should consider talking with a doctor.
For some, shame or guilt may be associated with nighttime eating, so it may be difficult to get a diagnosis in the first place. In addition, a person with symptoms may not realize they need medical help. Communicating with the doctor with honesty can make a difference.
If a person is diagnosed with
A person may wake up hungry for many reasons. Understanding the cause can be difficult, as research is ongoing and inconclusive.
To address the issue, consuming enough calories to make up for energy expenditure and getting enough sleep are good places to start.
If these strategies do not work, a medical professional is best positioned to determine the underlying cause.