Eating Before Bed: Is It Good or Bad to Eat Before Bed?

Sleeping.com Editorial Team

Woman eats before bed

Is it bad to eat before bed? Well, not necessarily. It depends on what you’re eating. If you’re eating a full meal with lots of sugar before bed, it’s not the best idea. But if you’re having a light snack, like a piece of fruit or some crackers, it’s probably not going to hurt you. 

Getting the best night’s sleep is tricky. There’s so much information out there, and it can be hard to know who to listen to. In this article, we’ll examine the research on eating before bed. We’ll give you some tips on what to do (and what to avoid) if you want to eat before you sleep. Continue reading if you’d like to learn:

  • How digestion works
  • Benefits of eating before bed
  • When to stop eating before bed
  • What to eat before bed

How Digestion Works

Before we answer the question, “is it bad to eat before bed,” we need to explain how digestion works. When you eat food, your body uses various enzymes and acids in your stomach and small intestines. These break down the food into its simplest forms: sugar, amino acids, and fats. 

The sugars get used for energy first and then stored as glycogen in your liver or muscles for energy later on. Likewise, the body uses amino acids and fats for repairing muscles or building new tissue and then becomes part of your body’s tissue structure.

Why Is It Bad to Eat Before Bed?

Now that we know how digestion works, let’s answer the question: “is it bad to eat before bed?”

If you’ve ever been told not to eat before bed, you might be wondering why. After all, you’re just going to sleep, so what does it matter? As it turns out, there are a few good reasons to avoid late-night snacking.

Indigestion

Eating before bed can cause indigestion. There are a few reasons why this happens.

First, lying down immediately after eating can cause food to travel back up the esophagus, leading to heartburn.

Second, eating before bed can trigger the production of stomach acid, causing indigestion.

And finally, eating before bed can mean that food stays in the stomach for a more extended time leading to indigestion.

All these factors can lead to discomfort and disturbed sleep.

Increased Risk of Heart disease

There is some evidence to suggest that eating late at night can increase the risk of heart disease. For example, one study found that people who ate within two hours of going to bed were more likely to have heart disease than those who didn’t.

It is not entirely clear why late-night eating might increase heart disease risk, but it may be because it disrupts sleep, a known risk factor for heart disease.

Weight Gain

Eating late at night can also lead to weight gain and obesity. This is because your body’s metabolism slows down at night, so it doesn’t burn off the calories as quickly. 

Furthermore, people who eat late at night have higher levels of the “hunger hormone” ghrelin. Ghrelin tells your body to store fat and increases your appetite.

In addition, late-night eating can lead to mindless snacking and overeating and an increased intake of sugary and fatty foods. All of these factors can contribute to weight gain.

Difficulty Falling Asleep

Eating before bed can make it difficult to fall asleep. Your body is busy digesting food when it should be winding down for the night. This leads to restless tossing and turning. If you’re having trouble sleeping, it might be due to late-night snacking.

Are There Any Benefits to Eating Before Bed?

After reading about some of the risks of eating before bed, you might wonder whether there are any benefits.

As it turns out, there are a few potential benefits of eating before bed.

Faster Muscle Growth

When you sleep, your body goes into a fasting state and breaks down muscles for energy. However, if you eat before bed, your body will have a steady supply of nutrients to help repair and build muscle tissue.

It Can Help You Sleep Better

Despite what you might have heard, eating before bed can improve sleep. This is because certain foods can help to promote sleep.

A small snack before bed also provides your body with the energy it needs to repair and regenerate during the night, helping you sleep more soundly.

Fighting Overnight Hunger Pangs

In addition, a small snack can help to stave off hunger pangs overnight, so you’re less likely to wake up in the middle of the night feeling famished.

How Many Hours Before Bed Should You Stop Eating?

So, how many hours before bed should you stop eating? We recommend avoiding food for at least three hours before bedtime.

Three hours gives your body enough time to digest the food. It will help prevent indigestion and heartburn. It also helps avoid weight gain by preventing your body from storing excess calories.

When To Stop Eating Before Bed

How long before bed should you stop eating? There’s no one-size-fits-all rule regarding how late you should eat. Everyone has different sleeping schedules, habits, and metabolism. 

For example, if you have a slow metabolism, you may want to stop eating sooner than someone with a faster metabolism.

The best way to figure out what works for you is to experiment and see how you feel after eating at different times.

If you find that you’re having trouble sleeping, indigestion, or weight gain, you may want to try avoiding food for a few hours before bed.

What Not To Eat Before Bed

We’ve all been there. It’s late at night, and we’re feeling a bit peckish. So we rummage through the fridge, looking for something to tide us over until morning. But before you reach for that slice of cake or tub of ice cream, you might want to think twice. 

Certain foods can make it difficult to sleep, cause indigestion, and even lead to weight gain. So what should you avoid? Here are some foods to steer clear of before hitting the pillow.

Spicy Food

That late-night curry might sound like a good idea, but it’s likely to cause:

  • Heartburn
  • Indigestion
  • Acid reflux

All of which can disrupt your sleep. In addition, spicy foods can trigger gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea and an upset stomach. So if you’re looking to get a good night’s sleep, it’s best to avoid spicy foods before bed. 

This doesn’t mean you have to give up your favorite dishes altogether. Instead, enjoy them earlier in the day, so your stomach has time to digest them before bedtime.

Caffeinated Drinks

Avoid caffeine-rich beverages before bedtime, such as energy drinks, coffee, and tea. Caffeine is a stimulant that can keep you awake and make it difficult to fall asleep. It can also lead to disturbed sleep and frequent trips to the bathroom. 

Caffeine can stay in your system for up to ten hours, so it’s best to avoid it after lunchtime. If you can’t go without your daily coffee, try to have your last cup at least six hours before bed. 

Alcohol

You might think that a nightcap will help you sleep, but alcohol has the opposite effect. Although it can make you feel drowsy, alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that can interfere with sleep.

It can cause you to wake up in the middle of the night and make it difficult to fall asleep. In addition, drinking too much alcohol can lead to dehydration and disrupt your sleep cycle.

Sugary Foods

A sugar-filled snack might give you a quick energy boost, but it’s likely to cause a major crash later. When your blood sugar drops in the middle of the night, it can lead to insomnia and disturbed sleep. 

A recent study showed that eating sugary foods before bed can also increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In addition, sugary foods can lead to other health problems such as high blood pressure and tooth decay. 

So if you’re looking for a late-night snack, opt for something high in protein or healthy fats instead.

Fatty Foods

Eating a fatty meal before bed can lead to indigestion, heartburn, and acid reflux. These can cause you to wake up in the middle of the night and make it difficult to fall back asleep. 

Fatty foods can also take longer to digest, leading to interrupted sleep. They can also increase your risk of developing obesity, associated with sleep deprivation.

Processed Foods

Processed foods often contain a lot of sodium. This excess sodium can cause various issues such as:

  • Water retention 
  • Bloating
  • Swelling

Since processed foods also usually have high glycemic indexes and lack fiber, eating these foods before bed will spike your blood sugar. 

Many processed foods are also low in tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid that helps your body make serotonin. Serotonin is a hormone that regulates your mood, appetite, memory, and sleep.

Though you might not always be able to avoid eating processed foods — especially if you’re dining out — keep them off your menu within three hours of bedtime.

What To Eat Before Bed

So, are you confused about what to eat before bed? There are a few foods that can help you sleep better. If you’re looking for a good night’s rest, consider adding these sleep-promoting foods to your bedtime routine.

Bananas

Bananas are a good source of magnesium and potassium, two nutrients essential for muscle relaxation. Also, the natural sugars in bananas can help you to feel sleepy.

Cottage Cheese

Cottage cheese is low in calories and high in protein, making it beneficial for sleeping. Moreover, the amino acids found in cottage cheese help stimulate serotonin production while keeping blood sugar steady throughout the night. 

This is why it is an excellent choice for nighttime snacking if you’re prone to anxiety-driven wakefulness during the night hours.

Oatmeal

Oatmeal is a classic bedtime food for a reason. This whole grain contains complex carbohydrates that help promote sleep by increasing serotonin levels in the brain. 

Oatmeal is also a good source of magnesium, a mineral that helps relax muscles and improve sleep quality. Adding some fruits or nuts to your oatmeal can be even more filling and satisfying.

Chamomile Tea

Chamomile tea has long been used as a natural remedy for insomnia. This herbal tea contains compounds that have a sedative effect on the body, making it easier to fall asleep. 

Chamomile tea is also a good source of antioxidants, which can help protect against cell damage and promote overall health.

Kiwis

Kiwis are a good source of nutrients like vitamin C, potassium, and folate. Research has also shown that Kiwis improve sleep quality. For instance, in a study of adults with self-reported sleep problems, those who ate two kiwis an hour before bedtime slept an average of 35 minutes longer than those who didn’t eat the fruit.

Almonds

Like bananas, almonds are a good source of magnesium, a muscle-relaxing mineral that helps improve sleep quality. Almonds are also a good source of healthy fats, protein, and fiber.

These nutrients work together to keep you feeling full and satisfied throughout the night. Adding a handful of almonds to your bedtime routine can help you sleep better and wake up feeling refreshed in the morning.

Tart Cherry Juice

Tart cherry juice is a good source of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle. A study found that drinking two ounces of tart cherry juice before bedtime improved sleep quality and duration in adults with insomnia.

Honey

Honey is a natural source of glucose, a sugar that helps promote sleep. Glucose signals the release of insulin, promoting the uptake of tryptophan into the brain. Once in the brain, tryptophan is used to produce serotonin, which is converted to melatonin, helping you fall asleep.

How To Stop Eating Before Bed

If you’re struggling to avoid late-night snacking, here are a few tips that can help.

Keep a Food Journal

Writing down what you eat can help you become more aware of your eating habits. By doing so, you may be able to spot patterns and make changes.

Eat Regular Meals

Skipping meals can lead to overeating later in the day. Make sure to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at regular times. Moreover,

Avoid Trigger Foods

Trigger foods make you want to eat even when you’re not hungry. For some people, these might be sugary or fatty foods. Others might find that they’re more likely to snack after drinking alcohol. Identifying your trigger foods can help you to avoid them.

Avoid Eating in Front of the TV

When you eat in front of the TV, you’re more likely to mindlessly eat and eat more than you would if you were paying attention. So try to avoid eating while watching TV or working at your desk.

Plan Ahead

Prepare in advance if you know you get tempted to snack late at night. Choose a healthy snack that you can eat earlier in the evening. This will help to tide you over until bedtime.

Frequently Asked Questions About Eating Before Bed

Here are some frequently asked questions about eating before bed.

How late is too late for dinner?

It’s best to eat dinner at least three or four hours before bedtime. This gives your body time to digest the food and helps to promote better sleep.

Does eating before bed cause nightmares?

There’s no evidence to suggest that eating before bed causes nightmares. However, eating a large meal late at night can cause indigestion, which can cause discomfort and make it difficult to sleep.

I’m always hungry at night. What should I do?

If you’re always hungry at night, it’s essential to ensure that you’re eating enough during the day. Skipping meals can lead to overeating later in the day. So instead, eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the same time every day.

Is it bad to eat before bed if you work out at night?

If you work out at night, you may want to eat a small snack before bed. This will help to replenish your energy levels and promote better sleep. Just be sure to choose the right foods.

Final Thoughts on Eating Before Bed

Eating before bed is not necessarily bad for you. There are some benefits to eating certain foods before bed, such as tart cherry juice and honey. However, it’s important to avoid trigger foods and eat dinner at least three hours before bedtime.

If you’re struggling to stop eating before bed, try keeping a food journal or avoiding trigger foods. Planning ahead can also help you avoid late-night snacking.

Thanks for reading! We hope this was helpful. Have any questions about eating before bed? Leave us a comment below.

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