Categories: Sleep Disorders

Eating Before Bed

Who doesn’t love a great midnight snack? The problem is, those midnight snacks might not be showing your body the love it really needs to receive from the food you eat. In fact, late night eating may have a few unexpected and certainly unwanted side effects. You should be aware of the potential pitfalls involved in eating before bed before you take another bite of your favorite late night snack attack fix.

Downside of Eating Before Bed

The bedtime routine in your house may invite late night snacks, or even after dinner snacks. But, are these snacks as good for your body as you think they are? Probably not. These are a few of the potential side effects associated with eating before bed that you need to know about.

1)  Bad dreams and nightmares. There is evidence that eating large amount of food before going to bed can trigger nightmares, according to the National Institutes of Health, that will keep you awake at various intervals throughout the night. At the very least, you’re unlikely to get quality sleep when dealing with bad dreams off and on throughout the evening.

2) Prevents weight loss. In fact, there are many who believe, including  that eating right before turning in not only makes it more difficult to lose weight, but also packs a powerful punch by causing people to gain weight too. Sarah Remmer, a Calgary-based registered dietitian, says that certain foods are more difficult to digest when lying down horizontally. “Foods that are high in fat, fibre or protein are slower to digest. If someone were to eat eggs and bacon right before bed, they’ll likely feel uncomfortable and won’t be able to sleep. They may also feel full and bloated in the morning,” Remmer says.

3)  Linked to nighttime heartburn. Anyone who has laid awake at night suffering from heartburn and/or acid reflux understands just how painful this particular condition can be. Hopefully learning that it is often the direct result of late night snacking will help you decide to skip out on snacks, particularly large snacks, in the hours after dark.

4) Poor quality sleep. From a sleep perspective, eating after dark can take its toll. Aside from the potential side effects mentioned above, eating large amounts of food late in the evening hours can leave you feeling stuffed and/or bloated and unable to get a solid night’s sleep.

What Can You Do?

Some people are simply addicted to their late night snack routines, making it a hard habit to break. This means that it’s up to each individual to make lasting changes to their snacking habits so they can achieve more positive results. Consider changing things up a bit and eating foods like oatmeal or air popped popcorn that encourage the body to produce tryptophan (think how tired you become after eating Thanksgiving turkey—it’s the tryptophan) or even a nice bowl of tart dried cherries which provide an excellent source of melatonin. Melatonin helps regulate your sleep cycle.

According to this Dallas News article, you can avoid late night heartburn by eating smaller servings before bedtime. Your body is better able to process and digest smaller portions earlier so that your body isn’t churning up acid while you’re sleeping. You might also want to skip the spicy foods and consider sleeping with your head raised to avoid waking throughout the night with painful heartburn or acid reflux.

If you’re having difficulty remaining asleep at night, or getting to sleep in the first place, you might want to consider eliminating food and drinks that contain caffeine after dark as well. Your body needs an adequate amount of sleep each and every day in order to recover and continue performing all its necessary functions. A few small changes, such as these, in what, how, and when you eat before bedtime can have a significant impact on the amount and quality of sleep you get at night.

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    Amber Merton

    Amber Merton writes exensively regarding green living and sleep. She has been an author on the PlushBeds blog for the past 7 years.

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