Late Night Eating Linked to Depression and Anxiety

May, 2023


What times throughout the day do you usually eat?

Do you ever feel anxious or depressed for no reason?

Vocabulary list 

• Students read each word followed by the definition, focusing on the correct pronunciation.

• The teacher reads the sample sentence and the students repeat, focusing on the correct pronunciation.

• After reading the list, students try to make their own example sentences using the words that are new to them. 

• Students share their example sentences and the teacher gives feedback, correcting errors if necessary.

night shift (noun phrase)

ˈnaɪt ˌʃɪft

a period in the night during which a particular group of people work

I will work the night shift, but only if I get a pay bonus.


circadian (adjective)


relating to biological processes that occur during a 24-hour period

The circadian rhythm of nocturnal animals is very different to humans.


misalignment (noun)


the condition of being out of correct position so as not to fit together properly

There is a misalignment in the building so some of the doors don’t shut properly.


shiftwork (noun)


a system of working different agreed periods of time during the day and night

Your grandfather did shiftwork in a factory for many years, and he didn’t sleep well.


jet lag (noun)

ˈdʒet ˌlæɡ

the feeling of tiredness a person gets after flying through different time zones

Flying around the world for business meetings sounds great, but the jet lag is a killer.


integral (adjective)


necessary and important to or for something

You’re an integral part of this team and we really need you.


intervention (noun)


involvement in a serious situation in order to help, or prevent it from getting worse

Sometimes an intervention is needed to rescue people from abuse.

Late Night Eating Linked to Depression and Anxiety

A 2022 study found that eating at night can have a negative impact on your mood. The study, conducted by researchers at Harvard Medical School’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) in the United States, found that nighttime eating can increase feelings of depression and anxiety.

Reasearchers enrolled 19 participants and randomly put them into a Daytime and Nighttime Meal Control Group, which had meals according to a 28-hour cycle (typical among night shift workers), and a Daytime-Only Meal Intervention Group, which had meals on a 24-hour cycle, eating only during the day. They then surveyed the participants and found that, by the fourth day, the participants with a greater degree of “circadian misalignment” began experiencing feelings of depression and anxiety.

By simulating night shift conditions and disrupting their eating pattern, the feedback from participants in the Nighttime Meal Control Group indicated that feelings of anxiety and depression had risen by 16% and 26%. However, there was no increase in anxiety and depression in the group who only ate during the day, indicating that meal timing may affect people’s moods.

Frank Scheer, Director of the Medical Chronobiology Program in BWH’s Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders and co-coordinating author of the study, said that the findings show that people who do shiftwork, experience jet lag, or have irregularities in their sleeping pattern, have a high probability of experiencing mood disorders.

Shift workers make up around 20% of the labour force and are integral to the running of hospitals, manufacturing and many other essential services. However, unfortunately, working irregular hours often disrupts the balance between the brain’s internal clock and regular activities like eating. This means that shift workers also face a 25% to 40% greater risk of developing anxiety and depression.

Dr. Sarah Chellappa, who was also a co-coordinating authored of the study and now works in the Department of Nuclear Medicine at the University of Cologne in Germany, said that those individuals experiencing circadian disruption could benefit from “meal time intervention”. She added that the findings suggest that there is a possibility of introducing a “sleep/circadian behavioural strategy” that might also benefit other individuals experiencing mental health disorders.

Whilst this was only a small sample study, more needs to be done to establish if changes in eating times can help people suffering from mood disorders said Chellappa. “Meal timing is emerging as an important aspect of nutrition that may influence physical health,” she said, but “the causal role of the timing of food intake on mental health remains to be tested”.



1. The research subjects’ circadian cycle was misaligned by…

a. altering their natural eating and sleeping times.
b. making them work longer hours.
c. forcing them to eat during the day.

2. According to the study, eating during made the research subjects happier.


3. The study showed that…

a. people who work night shifts also experience jet lag.
b. people who do shift work are more likely to have negative moods.
c. bad moods make people’s sleep patterns irregular

4. Working irregular hours can change the pattern of our eating habits.


5. What were the main conclusions of the study?


  • Do you pay much attention to the time that you eat?
  • What did you find interesting about this article? Did the findings of this study relate to you in any way?
  • What time of the day do you feel the hungriest?
  • Do you have any ‘comfort’ foods that make you feel good?
  • Does eating junk food make you feel good?
  • How healthy is your diet do you think?
  • There is a lot of information available to inform people about how to eat healthily; why do you think people still choose to have poor eating habits?
  • If you had to eat one type of cuisine all week – Italian for example – what would you choose?
  • If you were offered one final meal before you died, what dish would you choose?
  • There is an old say – “You are what you eat” – what do you think this might mean?