Night eating syndrome and its association with weight status, physical activity, eating habits, smoking status, and sleep patterns among college students

  • Najat YahiaEmail author
  • Carrie Brown
  • Stacey Potter
  • Hailey Szymanski
  • Karen Smith
  • Lindsay Pringle
  • Christine Herman
  • Manuela Uribe
  • Zhuxuan Fu
  • Mei Chung
  • Allan Geliebter
Original Article
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Sleep and Eating and Weight disorders



Night eating syndrome (NES) is characterized by evening hyperphagia and/or nocturnal ingestion.


The main objective of this study was to assess the percentage of students complying with symptoms and behaviors consistent with the diagnostic criteria for NES, and explore its association with body mass index (BMI), dietary habits, physical activity, smoking status, and sleep patterns, among a sample of college students.


A cross-sectional survey was conducted among a sample of 413 undergraduate students, mean age of 20.6 ± 1.68 SD, at Central Michigan University. Students completed an online survey including demographic information and the Night Eating Diagnostic Questionnaire (NEDQ) and Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index Questionnaire (PSQI). Participants were grouped based on self-reporting of the presence and frequency of night eating-related symptoms and behaviors related to the diagnostic criteria for NES as follows: normal, mild night eater, moderate night eater, and full-syndrome night eater. Pearson’s Chi-squared, Student’s t test, and Wilcoxon rank-sum test were used to test the association between students with and without any night eating behavior in relation to BMI, lifestyle variables, and sleep duration/quality.


Results showed that the proportion of students complying with symptoms and behaviors consistent with full-syndrome of NES was 1.2%. There were no significant differences between students complying with symptoms and behaviors consistent with any level of NES and those without any night eating behavior regarding BMI, eating habits, physical activity, and smoking status. NES was significantly related to sleep duration (P = 0.023). Students complying with symptoms consistent with any level of NES reported shorter sleep time and had higher total PSQI score (6.73 ± 4.06) than students without the syndrome (5.61 ± 2.61) (P = 0.007).


Although the percentage of students complying with full-syndrome NES was relatively low in our student sample, those students had shorter sleep time and poorer sleep quality than the other groups. However, it is unclear whether evening hyperphagia is a response to a lack of sleep or vice versa, and further research is needed.

Level of Evidence

Level III, case-control analytic study.


Night eating syndrome Obesity Sleep quality Night Eating Diagnostic Questionnaire NEDQ University students Eating disorders 



A special note of appreciation goes to Dr. Bill Lawrence, CEO and Director of McLaren Central Michigan Hospital and Ms. Marybeth Mey, Laboratory Manager, for their indispensable help in the laboratory analysis. Also, I would like to extend my appreciation to Professor Steven Couture for reviewing the draft, and to all CMU students who participated in this study.

Author contributions

NY carried out questionnaire design, manuscript preparation, data collection and study coordination. HS, KS, LP, and CH contributed in data collection and data entry. AG provided the NEDQ and reviewed the final draft of the manuscript. CB, ZF, and MC performed all the statistical analysis. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards


This work was partially supported by the Faculty Research and Creative Endeavors (FRCE) Grant (Type B Grant), and the FRCE Premier Display Grant at CMU.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Najat Yahia
    • 1
    Email author
  • Carrie Brown
    • 2
  • Stacey Potter
    • 1
  • Hailey Szymanski
    • 1
  • Karen Smith
    • 1
  • Lindsay Pringle
    • 1
  • Christine Herman
    • 1
  • Manuela Uribe
    • 1
  • Zhuxuan Fu
    • 3
  • Mei Chung
    • 3
  • Allan Geliebter
    • 4
    • 5
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of Human Environmental StudiesCentral Michigan UniversityMt. PleasantUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiostatisticsBoston UniversityBostonUSA
  3. 3.Department of Public Health and Family MedicineTufts University School of MedicineBostonUSA
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyTouro College and University SystemNew YorkUSA
  5. 5.Mt Sinai St. Luke’s HospitalNew YorkUSA
  6. 6.Department of PsychiatryMt. Sinai School of MedicineNew YorkUSA

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