How do I stop extreme night hunger pains that completely disappear in the morning?
January 11, 2007 9:28 AM   Subscribe

How do I stop extreme night hunger pains that completely disappear in the morning?

Often I wake up in the middle of the night in pain from extreme hunger. This occurs around 3 or 4 in the morning. It impedes my falling back to sleep for awhile, and I am forced to sleep with a pillow pressed against my stomach in an attempt to negate the pain. But when I awake a few hours later, I am not hungry in the slightest, and the pain has completely vanished. What is happening, and how can I stop these pains from occuring in the first place?
posted by amileighs to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
(i am not a doctor, but)

At night, do you drink alcohol, soda, coffee, or smoke cigarettes? You also might be having too large a dinner, very sincerely. When do you eat regularly?
posted by Peter H at 9:33 AM on January 11, 2007

Are you sure it's hunger pain? It fits the profile of gallbladder disease to me -- at night, extreme pain, wakes you from sleep. Where is the pain located exactly? In the middle or slightly to the right, behind and just under the bottom of the ribcage?
posted by loiseau at 9:36 AM on January 11, 2007

This happened to me when I was pregnant. I ended up having gestational diabetes and part of my diet was a small evening snack consisting of mostly protein. I would have half a sheet of graham cracker slathered with peanut butter and I never woke up hungry when I had the snack before bed.

If you are concerned about fat/calories, just eat a few bites less at each meal. And note that my snack had only about 100-150 calories, depending on how much PB I used.
posted by peep at 9:39 AM on January 11, 2007

You could try drinking a cup of hot herbal (caffeine-free) tea. Drinking warm liquids gives you a sense of being full sometimes.
posted by Alpenglow at 10:04 AM on January 11, 2007

I have heard (somewhere. I don't know where.) that this kind of extreme night hunger pain can actually be a sign of an ulcer. You should get it checked out the next time you're at the doctor.
posted by mygothlaundry at 10:11 AM on January 11, 2007

at least in my experience, the night-waking ulcer pain feels exactly like somebody just punched you in your solar plexus - extremely painful and you feel almost winded. So if it feels like that, mgl could be on to something there.

of course, maybe that was just me
posted by gaspode at 10:22 AM on January 11, 2007

What happens when you eat something after you woke up? Does the feeling of being hungry disappear? Do you wake up craving specific kinds of food (e.g. sugar, or fatty foods) as that might be an indication of nutrients your body might be missing.
posted by Herr Fahrstuhl at 10:35 AM on January 11, 2007

When I wake up from hunger pains, it's usually not hunger, but that my stomach is too acidic. I pop 3-4 extra strength Tums, and sometimes eat a small bowl of GoLean cereal with soymilk (high fiber, some protein) before going back to bed. I've been diagnosed with acid reflux. Ask your doctor.
posted by limeswirltart at 10:49 AM on January 11, 2007

I have heard (somewhere. I don't know where.) that this kind of extreme night hunger pain can actually be a sign of an ulcer.
It does, indeed, sound like my wife's (former) ulcer. A course of antibiotics fixed it. Go see a doctor.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:28 AM on January 11, 2007

It could be an ulcer, or it could be a hiatus hernia. It could be what you're eating/drinking/smoking close to bedtime. It could be a little extra acid for no particular reason. It could just be a little nonspecific quirk of you.

I've had ulcers for 2-3 years, though was originally diagnosed with the hiatus hernia as the symptoms are often the same. Often the pain was similar to severe hunger-pangs. Most ulcers are caused by a bacteria, and to clear them up you'd need to take a short course of antibiotics to kill the H-pylori bacteria and a longer course of a proton pump inhibitor (such as Zantac which is OTC or Nexium which is prescription-only) to stop your stomach from producing so much acid. If it's a hiatus hernia (or acid-reflx disease, or GERD, or whatever you want to call it), you'd probably want to be on a proton-pump inhibitor for awhile so your esophagus/upper stomach can heal without acid bothering it. Or maybe you'll just need to be Tums dependent. There is a breath test to test you for H-pylori if it is an ulcer, but IIRC the only way to truly know if it's a non-bacterial ulcer or a hiatus hernia is via upper GI endoscopy which is easy but can be expensive. Or if you're living somewhere with and making use of state-run healthcare, you might be waiting a long time for one.

In case it is either an ulcer or hiatus hernia, you will want to avoid anti-inflamatory painkillers (aspirin, ibuprofen, and a few others) because as a by-product of reducing inflamation, they also trick your stomach into not reproducing its mucous-lining, and that will worsen either of those conditions. Stick to paracetamol/Tylenol as best you can. And if you smoke, stop smoking so much before bedtime--it stimulates your stomach to produce acid. You may also benefit simply by sleeping at a slight incline (that is, with your head and shoulders raised). Or try a hot-water-bottle on your stomach at night.

Or maybe you're just hungry.
posted by Martin E. at 11:28 AM on January 11, 2007

Response by poster: I don't regularly drink alcohol, soda, coffee or cigarettes. I usually eat around 7 at night. The pain is located lower center of my abdomen (not in my solar plexus, etc.) and feels exactly like an extreme hunger pang. I've never gotten up to eat, because I'm usually not fully concious and I don't really believe in nighttime snacking. I should try that and probably talk to my doctor. I guess I'm most mystified about why the pain disappears a few hours later in the morning.
posted by amileighs at 11:29 AM on January 11, 2007

I often wake up in the middle of the night hungry (not in *pain* as you're describing, but just with an empty, rumbling belly) and I've found that eating a cup of yogurt is the fastest solution to appeasing the stomach-monsters and getting back to sleep.

It sounds like you might be dealing with something more serious though, it'd be worth checking in with your doctor just to be sure that you really ARE just hungry.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:15 PM on January 11, 2007

I generally find that if I go to sleep wanting food I'm not nearly as hungry when I wake up. I always figured this was fairly normal.

If i woke up intensely hungry, there's an excellent chance, given my particular medical history, that it would be due to a sharp drop in blood sugar. And if I'm experiencing a sharp drop in blood sugar when I wouldn't normally expect to, it's probably because my most recent meal was either too small or too carbohydraty. Carbs burn off quickly, proteins less so and fats stay around the longest. If at 7pm you have salad with your meatloaf instead of mashed potatoes and forgo the ketchup, you may find that your blood sugar doesn't drop as easily.

Also, it occurs to me that lots of folks depend on elevated adrenaline levels to keep their blood sugar up. That's why caffeine and other such stimulants are effective appetite supressants; they raise levels of adrenaline and other 'up' neurotransmitters and hormones. This raises blood sugar and when your blood sugar is within a certain range, you tend not to get hungry.

Which is not to say that you're necessarily chugging lots of Red Bull or chewing Vivarin. Stress or other factors could cause the adrenal gland to do this.

In any case, I know that the output of the adrenal gland is tied to circadian rhythms and that these rhythms have a lot to do with sleep patterns. But it's been a while since I read anything about this and I can't remember details. The upshot, though, is that (a) it might be your adrenal gland that's keeping your blood sugar at acceptable levels when you're awake and (b) the output of the adrenal may be dropping too much or too fast when you sleep, resulting in a corresponding blood sugar drop.

If this turns out to be the case, then the solution - I assume - would not be to increase the nighttime output of the adrenal gland but to stop depending on it for your daytime increases. That would most likely involve some stress reduction and some dietary changes along with, possibly, some treatments to stabilize your blood sugar. I've found Chromium GTF works for this sort of thing and there was something on the blue recently about cinnamon being used for this purpose.
posted by Clay201 at 12:54 PM on January 11, 2007

Something similar happened to me a few times years ago, and I found the only way to appease the hunger was drinking one of the big cans of V8--about 6 glasses worth! No medical issues ever arose related to the hunger, and aside from being thirsty in the morning, the salty V8, which was pretty cheap and easy to ingest quickly, seemed to do no harm.
posted by Scram at 2:45 PM on January 11, 2007

Back to what peep said. IANAD either but this does sounds to me like a blood sugar/metablolism thing. You should really get blood work done if you haven't recently.
posted by snsranch at 4:02 PM on January 11, 2007

Me, I get up and have a banana. You, I'd say visit a doc asap. If it turns out to be hunger, just get up and have that snack. It doesn't have to be something unhealthy.
posted by deborah at 4:05 PM on January 11, 2007

I've found that a quarter cup or so of cottage cheese before bed keeps those pangs at bay and helps me get sleepy, too! Bonus!
posted by ApathyGirl at 4:50 PM on January 11, 2007

amileighs: Are you active during the day? Exercise a lot? I wake up every single night around 2:30 am with the same hunger pangs and I eat - carbs, protein, fat, whatever.

Eat something and get back to bed.
posted by dropkick at 7:17 AM on January 13, 2007

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