Why do I always get so hungry late at night?
November 16, 2009 5:32 PM   Subscribe

Why do I always get so hungry late at night?

I tend to go to bed around 12:30-1 am, though it usually takes me a long time to fall asleep. I always get hungry around 11-12, and if I stay up later than usual I get especially hungry. I usually eat something, but even then I don't feel full. I've been this way for several years, if not forever; I don't remember ever not being like this.

Maybe-relevant info: I'm 23 and male. I don't have any relevant health problems except a tendency to fall asleep late and wake up late (for which I take melatonin). I eat pretty nutritiously, mostly vegetarian. (I may lack some protein, but I try to get it from legumes; I might also lack some kind of vitamin, but I'd have no idea how to tell). I don't exercise much, though I think I had the same problem back when I did exercise more. I tend to consume a lot of caffeine, mostly tea (which I usually avoid drinking after 8 pm unless it's decaf).

Does this happen to anyone else? It seems like everyone else I know eats dinner somewhere between 6 and 8 and then doesn't eat anything after that until falling asleep, so it seems pretty weird! It's supposedly unhealthy to eat late at night, so is there anything I can do about it?

Anonymous just because I included a lot of identifying information.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
This happens to me. I'm 23, male, no apparently related health problems, omnivorous, have done a wide range of activity levels from nothing to strenuous strength exercises every day. I would chalk it up just to being young and male. Unless you're packing on fat or suspect you might be diabetic or something, I wouldn't worry about it.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 5:36 PM on November 16, 2009

Try to eat more filling stuff throughout the day--nut butters, avocado, cheeses, etc., whatever you like that has healthy fat and protein. It will keep you fuller longer.

Also, some people need to graze throughout the day to feel full while others can have a few meals (small, big, whatever) and not ever feel peckish. You might need to figure out while is more "you." Switch up your eating habits (in terms of everything--food choices, timing, portions) and see if anything changes.
posted by Rudy Gerner at 5:44 PM on November 16, 2009

Caffeine is an appetite suppressant, so perhaps you're getting hungry at night once it's effects are wearing off.
posted by burntflowers at 5:54 PM on November 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

Totally normal from my experience... At that age I think you're still pretty happily in the eat whatever the hell whenever the hell you want zone.

I definitely used to get hungry late at night, and I'd go and eat, didn't think anything of it. I'd often have whole meals rather than just a snack.

I think a lot of people do actually have food after their evening meal, it might just be toast or cereal or a couple of chocolate biscuits or something with a tea or coffee but it is still food.

Also, people that don't eat food after their evening meal are probably people that consider 1AM crazy late in the going to bed stakes, so they're having breakfast hours and hours before you do the next morning.
posted by Suspicious Ninja at 5:56 PM on November 16, 2009

I go to bed the same time you do, pretty much every single night. I like to eat dinner between 9:00 and 10:00 and then I'm not usually that hungry before I go to bed. If I ate dinner between 6:00 and 8:00, I'd be starving before bed. If it's relevant, I eat a small breakfast about 10:30, a light lunch about 2, a snack when I get home about 6:00 and then a full on dinner about 9:30. Maybe try eating your dinners later on in the evening? It works for me.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 6:08 PM on November 16, 2009

I think you may need more fat in your diet. You mentioned vegetarian stuff but not much else, so chances are you may be getting a lot of complex carbohydrates and some protein perhaps but not much fat... and that will ramp your appetite up.
posted by crapmatic at 6:12 PM on November 16, 2009

Two thoughts-

1- You aren't eating enough during the day, and your hunger finally lets loose later in the day.

2- You are eating to counteract the caffeine and get to sleep. Try cutting the caffeine off earlier in the day.
posted by gjc at 6:25 PM on November 16, 2009

I usually solve this problem with a quick meal of spiced Mediterranean sardines over crackers. Protein before bed helps you build muscle mass, for what it's worth.
posted by aquafortis at 6:29 PM on November 16, 2009

It's a long time between dinner and 1:00 a.m. If I go more than 4 hours at any point in the day without eating, I get hungry. It seems pretty typical, no?
posted by something something at 6:49 PM on November 16, 2009

This is going to sound crazy, but I used to get what I thought were hunger pangs/pains at night...and eventually I realized it was heartburn. Or hunger pains exacerbated by heartburn. This could explain your not feeling full after eating - if wasn't hunger to begin with, food won't solve the problem.
posted by needs more cowbell at 6:55 PM on November 16, 2009

You're not hungry; you're bored.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 7:21 PM on November 16, 2009

Fatigue screws with glucose metabolism, so that your calories/hour requirement at any given level of activity goes up dramatically. I don't know whether this explains your hunger, though. This was a study of Navy SEALs during Hell Week, so results may only be applicable to very fit, very sleep-deprived individuals carrying trees around.
posted by d. z. wang at 8:09 PM on November 16, 2009

I have to cut myself off of caffeine at about 4 to get to bed at 11 and asleep a reasonable amount of time after, and the problem I have going to sleep if I don't stop with the coffee early enough is a ravenous, insatiable hunger that keeps me awake. I'm pretty sure it's the caffeine wearing off and the appetite it was suppressing coming back with a vengeance.

a snack of raw vegetables and protein are the best solution to the problem that I've found so far. (other than not drinking so much coffee, of course.)
posted by spindle at 8:38 PM on November 16, 2009

I get hungry in that window too -- and I'm healthy, average college student. I mean, yes, 10/11 is a long time after dinner -- so a snack of crackers + spread (I favour hummus) is not remiss!
posted by fantine at 9:10 PM on November 16, 2009

Do you eat breakfast first thing upon getting up? I know someone who used to require a midnight snack, but since he started eating breakfast regularly, he has dropped the late-night snack.
posted by Orinda at 10:48 PM on November 16, 2009

If you ate at 6 its totally normal to be hungry again by 11. Are you still hungry at 11-12 if you eat dinner at 8? What time do you normally eat your other meals? For me, on a normal day, 5 hours after a meal is about when I start to get hungry. If I went to bed 7 hours after dinner, I probably wouldn't be able to sleep because I'd be too hungry.

Also do you drink enough water? I get more hungry if I don't drink enough.
posted by missmagenta at 3:19 AM on November 17, 2009

seconding the drinking water recommendation. your metabolism sounds like it might be like mine - mighty mighty burning, and normal amounts of (some) food is just not enough).

if you're concerned about eating too late, try drinking some water and ignoring the hunger feeling. it most likely will go away once you fall asleep and your appetite will reset in the morning.

if you really have to eat, try one of two things: if you're going to bed soon, have a small amount of starch and fat, like a small bowl of cereal with whole milk, or buttered toast. that will be briefly satisfying and help make you sleepy.

if you're staying up to work on something, have something with more fat but not too much starch or heavy protein, like some cheese or some peanut butter. try to calibrate the weight and quantity of your snack to how much time you need to spend awake and cheerful.
posted by toodleydoodley at 4:50 PM on November 24, 2009

no there is a syndrome called night eating syndrome and I have it
Your post echoes MY struggle ! iTs a hormonal thing-genetic.

If allowed contact me at f615k at aol dot com for support/

drugs like phentermine and tenuate dospan WORK but short term only with side effects (insomnia)

Heres my list of what works ( non drug)
given my strugles and trial and error I feel MY posts are more on the mark than those without this insane condition:

Decaf green tea (helps a little)
Workout early evening
A mixture of whey protein + konsul fiber+water...along with more fiber (celery)

Protein is your best ally
Fiber is as well
as is water

hey Im FINE at 11pm on phentermine Rx
but will I be able to fall asleep tonight?????

You cant stay on phentermine forever

this syndrome is real and its nasty and wicked and most docs and nutritionists dont understand it (use more willppwer...right!)

We both have a fight on our hand and its winnable with the right tools feel free to contact
posted by fredboy at 9:08 PM on December 9, 2009

cut back on caffiene more
go tom bed earlier (get on habit of this)
drink water with dinner
drink water and or DECAF beverages at night
make a shake of whey protein and 0 calorie fiber and water for late night emgcy hunger
posted by fredboy at 10:02 AM on February 4, 2010

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