Posted on June 12 2018
We’re all guilty of enjoying a midnight snack… but can eating before bed be bad for your health?
It usually seems like a good idea at the time to have a quick snack before bed (or even in bed), but rarely do we stop to think about how a late night snack may be impacting our sleep and overall health.
One of the main issues with going to bed immediately after sleeping is that your body digests food best in an upright position. Therefore, laying down with a belly full of food can lead to a number of digestion problems such as heartburn and interjection – as the stuff inside your stomach travels back up in to your esophagus. These digestion problems, as well as bloating and midnight toilet runs interrupt your sleep, which ultimately impacts your overall health.
On top of this, when you take in extra calories right before bedtime your body does not have a chance to burn off those calories, which can lead to weight gain. However as Live Strong’s article on the disadvantages of sleeping after a meal suggests, the real weight gain risk is that when we are tired we lack the energy or will power to prepare a healthy meal, so are much more likely to reach for the left over pizza or ice-cream.
We know what you’re thinking… it’s not fair, because what is the first thing you feel like doing after having a big meal? Lying down and having a nap! Thankfully there are some foods that are better for you than others to eat before bed, so we don’t have to go to bed with a growling stomach.
Our top 3 tips on managing eating and sleeping
1. Try to hold off for a few hours
To avoid digestion issues disrupting your sleep, dietician Leslie Beck recommends eating your last meal of the day no later than two to three hours before you go to bed. If you’re up late and you’re dying for a snack before bed, Beck recommends a light snack that digests quickly.
2. What to eat before bed
As mentioned above, some foods are more appropriate than others to enjoy before bed, as it is also not recommended to go to bed on an empty stomach!
Health Line suggests light snacks full of complex carbs such as whole grains, fruit and vegetables, cottage cheese, nuts and herbal teas (without caffeine). Milk, yogurt and oatmeal are also known to help the body produce melatonin, the natural drowsiness hormone that helps you sleep.
3. What NOT to eat before bedIf you can muster the will power, The Sleep Judge recommends avoiding fatty, greasy foods such as burgers and pizza as a late night snack, as all those extra calories are extremely hard for the body to digest while you’re trying to sleep. You should also be cautious of the temptations of late night chocolate, as not only does it contain unnecessary calories, but it also contains caffeine, which we discussed the dangers of in Part 2 of this series!