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sleep / wellness

Eating Before Bed

by BetterSleep
Jun 27 • 4 min read

Wanting a quick midnight snack before bedtime is normal—but how does it affect us? There’s a widespread belief that it negatively impacts not only our sleep but also our weight and ability to properly digest food before bedtime. While there are many factors in life that can disrupt our sleep, such as insomnia, anxiety, over-consumption of caffeine, and so on, it’s important to know what to eat and what not to eat before bedtime in case it’s causing issues for your sleep routine.

Here’s why eating before bed is only acceptable at certain times, and how anything more than that can affect your sleep and overall health.

How Long Can You Eat Something Before Bed?

As a general rule, refrain from eating before bed for a minimum of three hours before you hit the hay—buying you enough time to properly digest what you’ve eaten so you don’t go to sleep with an upset stomach. Otherwise, risks of acid reflux and indigestion are very real, especially when you eat spicy, acidic, and/or fatty foods immediately before bed. If you’re eating out of a large bag or container, this can make it even worse—so remember to keep your portions in check! Don’t consume any alcohol or caffeine, either, since they both negatively impact your sleep hygiene and weight. Cereal, cheese (unless it’s in small portions), and orange juice are also not recommended for pre-bedtime consumption.

So What Can You Eat Before Bed, if Anything?

Though health experts say you technically should not eat anything before bedtime, this rule has some exceptions. Acceptable foods to eat at this time include fruits (apples), vegetables (broccoli, peas), and Greek yogurt. Tempting as it may be to eat potato chips or chocolate bars or ice cream before bed, this is exactly what we should be avoiding before we go to sleep. You’re not likely to want to munch on broccoli or lettuce at midnight, but be mindful of how unhealthy foods affect your sleep, too. The smaller and less fatty your midnight snack of choice is, the better!

Why Do You Get Tired After Eating?

Should you start feeling sleepy soon after you’ve finished eating, remember that this is normal. This is because insulin is sent into your blood to transport your blood sugar—which increases after you eat—into your cells. Eating before bed can minimize any feelings of hunger while you’re already going to sleep, and there are links between your eating habits and sleep quality. If you’re experiencing acid reflux, this can not only make it more difficult to fall asleep, but it can also disrupt your sleep after you’ve already dozed off.

Despite the potential for increased weight gain, peanut butter is an example of a food that can help you get a better night’s sleep. This is because they contain tryptophan, which has been used to help treat sleep disorders. Additionally, tryptophan helps your body produce more melatonin. Peanut butter also contains various essential nutrients and is full of protein, which can reduce your levels of nighttime hunger.

Is It Bad to Lay Down After You Eat?

In a word, yes. It can be. Having a snack or meal before you go to sleep can lead to some problems, particularly with your gastrointestinal tract and its structure. For one, pre-bedtime eating can interfere with your own circadian rhythm, also known as your body clock.

Similarly, when you lie down shortly after eating, the sphincter between your esophagus and stomach can stay open and lead to digestive juices going up the wrong way, causing possible heartburn. This is especially true since lying down after eating causes your stomach to be in the wrong position to keep its contents from flowing upward.

By waiting a minimum of three hours to lie down after you’ve finished eating, you can more easily digest your food, maintain your blood sugar (if you’re eating the right types of food full of nutritional value), and optimize your quality of sleep by going to bed on a full stomach.

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