Understanding the Effects of Eating Before Bed

Have you ever gone to bed hungry, promising yourself that you’ll wait until breakfast to eat but your tummy rumbles just won't let you sleep? This happens to all of us, especially when trying to lose weight or have just started a new healthy eating program. Eating at night could be beneficial to your health or cause a disturbance in your circadian rhythm. To find the right balance for your system, it’s essential to know what is healthy to snack on before bed and what to avoid. Let’s learn how to do nighttime snacking right.    

Snacking before bed is best done at least 30 minutes before you lay down 

Eating Before Bed and Digestion 

Snacking before bed is best done at least 30 minutes before you lay down to sleep. This allows your digestion plenty of time to work. If you eat and then go directly to bed, your esophagus has to work a little harder. Your lower esophageal sphincter could remain open, causing acid reflux or heartburn. You may become nauseous if you eat something unfamiliar before bed, eat too fast, or eat spicy food.     

Eating Before Bed and Quality of Sleep

Ever heard the old saying ‘don’t eat cheese before bed or you’ll have nightmares?’. Your digestion is a delicate process that requires energy. When you lay down to sleep, you’re sending signals to your body that it’s time to shut down for the night. Snacking before bed results in slower digestion time and might keep you awake. Your quality of sleep is determined by many factors including your diet, anxiety levels, and exercise regimen. 

Eating Before Bed: Weight Gain & Weight Loss 

There are few studies on eating at night and weight gain/loss. However, if you’re eating your regular daily meals and snacks with additional snacking before bed, this could lead to taking in slightly more of your daily calorie load. Conversely, if you don’t eat much during the day and then eat a large meal before bed. You could be putting yourself at risk of calorie deficit resulting in weight loss. Regardless of your lifestyle, eating habits, and sleep schedule, it’s best to allow your body plenty of time to digest your food.   

 

 

Can Eating Before Bed Make me Gain Weight? 

If eating complex carbs, junk foods, and ice cream before bed every night. Chances are you may disturb your sleep and could put on a little extra weight. Your heart rate and cortisol levels go down when you lay down to sleep, which could interrupt your digestion process. Stick to eating a healthy snack before bed such as a small banana or small bowl of oatmeal.    

Pros and Cons of Eating Before Bed

  • A healthy snack before bed can help you sleep
  • The tummy rumbles of going to bed on an empty stomach could cause insomnia 
  • Eating a large meal before bed could make it hard to fall asleep fast
  • Eating large meals before bed leads to weight gain in some people
  • Your metabolism slows down at night so calories are burned more slowly than during the day 
  • May experience acid reflux or heartburn after eating at night   

Should I go to Bed Hungry?

You should never go to bed hungry. A healthy snack at night, such as a banana, oatmeal, avocado, or small glass of milk before bed should be easily digestible and not interrupt your sleep or cause problems with your blood sugar. In fact, a little snack before bed can comfort you and help you fall asleep fast. 

What can I Eat Before Bed? 

Choose one of the following: 

  • Walnuts
  • Almonds or almond milk
  • Small serving of turkey 
  • Banana
  • Oatmeal 
  • Avocado
  • 1 boiled egg  

What is the Best Time to Eat?

Breakfast

Eat a nutritious breakfast within one hour of waking.  

Lunch 

Eat lunch 4-5 hours after breakfast. 

Dinner

Depending on your schedule, aim to eat dinner at least 2-3 hours before bed. 

Snacks

Snacks can be enjoyed between meals but keep them low sugar and low carb so as not to spoil your appetite for your main meals. 

What is the Best Time to Drink Water?

The best time to drink water is to sip it throughout the day to stay hydrated. If you drink water right before bed, it may wake you up in the middle of the night to pee.

Exercising at 6-7am is recommended to help you sleep at night 

What is the Best Time to Exercise?

Exercising at 6-7am is recommended to help you sleep at night. Also, exercising on an empty stomach is said to burn more fat. However, whatever time of day you choose, as long as you have the energy and motivation for exercise is what counts. Just don’t go running before bed or you may experience insomnia. You need some cool down time to get your heart rate back to normal. 

 

 

Does my Diet Affect my Quality of Sleep?  

If you’re indulging in complex carbs, junk foods, and snacking before bed, you could be at risk of developing insomnia or sleep disorder. Your body needs time to digest food. When you sleep, your body slows down its processes, including digestion. If your body is constantly struggling to balance your circadian rhythm, your quality of sleep could be disturbed. Eat as healthy as you can, lots of leafy greens, protein, water, nuts and seeds. Exercise in the morning if possible so you can sleep better at night. 

Conclusion: Is it Safe to Eat Before Bed?

Eating before going to bed every now and then is not detrimental to your health. Going to bed on an empty stomach is not beneficial either. Aim to heat a healthy snack if you’re peckish before bed to help you stay asleep (rather than staying awake listening to your tummy rumble). Avoid eating large meals, spicy food, or indulging in caffeine or alcohol before bed. Your quality of sleep is determined by many factors including your diet. Enjoy a treat every now and then but if you rely on good quality healthy food, you’ll sleep like a baby and feel much better too.