There are a lot of conflicting opinions when it comes to nighttime eating and whether or not it’s healthy. Our take is that depending on the foods you consume, nighttime snacking may enhance sleep quality and improve weight loss.
Overall, we recommend having dinner early in the evening and indulging in a light, healthy snack if you start feeling hungry again as bedtime draws near. Read on for a detailed breakdown of the pros and cons of eating close to bed, along with some healthy snack ideas.Save $450 On Any MattressPlus free shippingGet $450 OFF Mattresses
Pros of Eating Before Bed
Pros to eating before bed include weight loss, sleeping better, and maintaining blood sugar levels.
Even in sleep, your body needs energy to function, as it’s recovering from the previous day. When you go to bed hungry, your body lacks the calories it needs to recharge; this results in your body holding onto carbs and fats instead of using it as fuel. Choosing sleep-inducing snacks high in tryptophan and melatonin are not only good for you, but they’ll also satiate hunger pangs and give your body the energy it needs to recover at night.
Tryptophan is an amino acid that increases serotonin and melatonin levels in the body. We can’t produce tryptophan naturally—instead, we consume foods that contain tryptophan to induce sleep.
Tryptophan-rich foods include milk, cheese, eggs, nuts, fish, and beans.
Melatonin is a hormone that regulates sleep by influencing the body’s sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin production relies on the body’s exposure to lightless light produces more melatonin.
Good sources of melatonin include cherries, walnuts, bananas, oats, and tomatoes.
A full stomach makes a person feel sleepy, but foods with nutritional value can make all the difference between a good night’s sleep and indigestion. Healthy snacks like apples and peanut butter or avocado toast contain excellent nutrients.
Maintain Blood Sugar
Foods like fruits, nuts, oatmeal, and whole wheat bread regulate blood sugar levels. Low levels result in less energy and feeling groggy the next morning. High levels cause boosts of energy, increasing sleep disruptions.
Cons of Eating Before Bed
Cons to eating before bed include poor sleep, slower metabolism, eating more, unhealthy choices, acid reflux, indigestion, and heartburn, and health risks.
Depending on what you eat and at what time of day, the foods you consume can disrupt your sleep patterns. Foods containing caffeine like chocolate and coffee may seem like a good idea before bed, but the caffeine boosts your energy and may cause you to wake up several times in the middle of the night.
Eating before bed can cause the body’s metabolism to slow. The body slows down its functions at night to prepare for sleep, but consuming foods, especially those high in carbs, can make it harder to digest and result in weight gain.
People tend to be hungriest at night, leading to consuming larger meals. Instead of eating late at night and leaving less time for digestion, try to train yourself to eat larger meals during the day. The phrase, “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper” is sound advice to follow, especially if you’re trying to lose weight.
One of the main issues with late-night snacking is the choices we make—we’re more likely to give in to those cravings for high-fat, sugary junk food like chips, pizza, cookies, and ice cream. When we snack on these types of foods, especially in front of the TV, we’re more likely to binge-eat, or mindlessly eat our way through more food.
Acid Reflux, Indigestion, and Heartburn
Another risk of eating large meals right before bed is acid reflux, indigestion, and heartburn. Giving the body time to digest before bed can reduce the risk of developing these problems.
After eating and climbing into bed, the body rests at a horizontal angle, resulting in stomach acid easily entering the esophagus and causing acid reflux.
Indigestion is when you suffer stomach pains and discomfort after eating a large meal.
Heartburn is a burning sensation in the chest caused by overeating and consuming spicy foods. Heartburn can worsen when lying down.
Worsens Sleep Apnea
If you already struggle with managing sleep apnea symptoms, late-night eating habits can increase the number of sleeping interruptions you experience.One 2019 study foundVerified SourceNational Library of Medicine (NIH)World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible.View sourcenoted that higher food intake close to bedtime was associated with “an increase in the number of awakenings” in the study’s participants.
Health risks of regularly eating late at night include obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
Obesity and Weight Gain
One cause of weight gain and obesity is eating more calories than what we use as energy causing the body to store more fat. These high-calorie foods include fast food, fried foods, fatty meats, and sugary junk food make you gain weight no matter when you eat them.
Diabetes is when you have high blood sugar and your body is unable to produce, or struggles to produce, insulin to regulate blood sugar levels.
Heart disease includes any condition which affects the heart, including heart defects, high blood pressure, and arrhythmia. Regularly eating junk food, especially late at night, can narrow and clog arteries with cholesterol and fatty deposits (a.k.a. plaque).
Don’t Go to Bed Hungry
While we encourage you to avoid late-night snacking, we also discourage you from going to bed while hungry. Your body constantly needs energy to function, even during sleep.
Going to bed without a last meal means your body has less energy to rejuvenate and repair itself. Plus, with less energy, the body holds onto existing fat for energy, making it harder to lose weight and easier for weight gain to occur.
Eating your last meal a couple of hours before bed helps you balance the need to avoid any hunger that distracts you from sleep, but also keeps you from feeling uncomfortably full and bloated as you stretch out on the bed.
Healthy Snacking for Better Sleep
If you’re still feeling hungry after dinner, avoid reaching for that pint of ice cream or bag of chips. Sweets, junk food, and spicy foods are high in calories and can trigger cravings for more food. These types of foods can also hamper the body’s ability to fall asleep quickly at night— reflux and indigestion, and consuming peppers heat the body and hamper the body’s natural cooling process at night.
Instead, have a bedtime snack containing complex carbs and small amounts of high protein—fruits, veggies, and other nighttimes snacks include:
- Cheese and crackers
- Apples and peanut butter
- Low-sugar cereal with low-fat milk
- Avocado toast
Foods to Avoid at Bedtime
Acidic foods, fried foods, spicy foods, and foods high in fat can all be hard on the stomach, particularly if you lie down soon after consumption. Sugary foods can also affect how well you sleep at night, so try to cut out sweets and junk food.
Caffeine is one big no-no when bedtime draws near. Obviously, this means avoiding coffee, caffeinated sodas, and stronger black and green teas. But even decaf tea has trace amounts of caffeine in it, so if you want to go completely caffeine free, we recommend herbal teas for sleep.
Best Time to Eat
The best time to eat dinner is 3 hours before bedtime, allowing the stomach to properly digest and focus on preparing for sleep when bedtime rolls around the corner.Eating small amounts of foods like complex carbs, fruits, veggies, or a small amount of protein will satiate hunger pains and help you fall asleep faster.
After you’ve eaten dinner, you can spend the next couple of hours unwinding as part of your bedtime routine. Potential activities include a warm shower a bath, reading a good book, journaling about your day, or working your way through a jigsaw puzzle.
If you find yourself feeling hungry as bedtime draws closer, consider a light and healthy late-night snack, like a cup of yogurt or a handful of nuts.
Frequently Asked Questions
When should you eat your biggest meal?
While many look to dinner as the big meal of the day, having a light breakfast and lean lunch as a result, it may be better to eat your heavier meals earlier in the day. Many find it easier to maintain a healthy weight if they make lunch their big meal of the day. And for some, eating a large breakfast energizes them more throughout the day.
If you find a large dinner creates weight gain and makes it harder to relax in the evening, you may want to try re-arranging your meal plan so you eat more food earlier in the day and less at night.
When should I stop eating before bed?
The usual advice from experts is to stop eating three hours before bed. This period of time gives your body time to digest a meal, limiting the indigestion, possible weight gain and acid reflux that could keep you up when you get into bed. So if you aim to be in bed by midnight, try to eat dinner before 9 p.m.
What foods should I avoid eating before bed?
Acidic foods, fried foods, and spicy foods are more likely to upset the stomach close to bedtime, particularly if you lie down rather than sleep in an inclined bed. Heartburn is more likely if you lie down after eating, making it easy for the contents of your stomach to flow up your esophagus. This is also why you want to avoid over-eating before bed, and go with a light snack instead of a full meal if you feel hunger pangs.
Should I go to bed hungry?
Feeling a little bit hungry before bed can be a good thing, as you don’t want to feel overly full before bed. However, you don’t want so hungry that you can’t relax and fall asleep. So if you’re struggling to sleep and find your stomach feels empty, a light snack may help you fall asleep.
How can I feel full longer without eating?
High-fiber foods take longer to digest, stretching out the feeling of satiation without loading up on calories. So if you’re considering what to eat at dinner that will help you bypass bedtime snack cravings, look for fiber-filled foods. Whole-grain foods and fruits and vegetables are all high-fiber foods. If you do get hungry later, popcorn is an easy snack to make that’s full of fiber and low on calories.
Eating a large amount of food close to bedtime generally isn’t a good idea. If your stomach is still digesting dinner when you lie down, you may experience symptoms of acid reflux like heartburn or nausea.
Giving yourself two or three hours after eating before going to bed leaves time for your stomach to push its contents into your small intestine, reducing the likelihood of digestive issues when you stretch out in bed.
What are the cons of eating before bed? ›
Cons to eating before bed include poor sleep, slower metabolism, eating more, unhealthy choices, acid reflux, indigestion, and heartburn, and health risks.What are the negatives of eating late at night? ›
New study provides experimental evidence that late eating may increase hunger, obesity risk. Obesity afflicts approximately 42 percent of the U.S. adult population and contributes to the onset of chronic diseases, including diabetes, cancer, and other conditions.Does eating late at night affect sleep? ›
When we eat late at night, the muscles that digest and metabolize our food have to keep working when they should be resting. This can delay your ability to fall asleep and can prevent you from getting the deep, restful stage of sleep you need to feel refreshed the next day.What are the benefits of eating late at night? ›
Pro: Protein-filled snacks aid in rebuilding muscle while you sleep. Late-night eating can be a boost for your muscles if you worked out earlier in the day. Choose snacks that are high in protein, such as cheese, nuts, or chickpeas, to prep your body to rebuild while you sleep.How many hours before bed should you stop eating? ›
Experts recommend waiting at least three hours after you've eaten to go to bed. This allows your body time to digest your food so you're not up at night with an upset stomach, indigestion, or acid reflux. And it helps you stay asleep.Does eating before bed affect anything? ›
IT Affects Your Sleep. At the most basic level, if your body is working to digest food it's not able to get to as restful a state as it would otherwise. This can cause you to have trouble falling asleep and also reduce the quality of your sleep.Does eating late cause big tummy? ›
You won't gain weight by merely eating later if you eat within your daily calorie needs. Still, studies show that nighttime eaters typically make poorer food choices and eat more calories, which can lead to weight gain. If you're hungry after dinner, chose nutrient-dense foods and low-calorie beverages.What happens if I sleep after eating? ›
What happens if you sleep after eating? If you sleep directly after eating, you'll probably encounter indigestion, heartburn, and other digestive problems that disrupt nighttime sleep. You also increase your risk of unhealthy weight gain, obesity, and poor health over time.Is peanut butter before bed good? ›
Thanks to its impressive nutrient profile, some health advocates recommend eating peanut butter at night to support muscle growth, stabilize blood sugar levels, and improve sleep quality.What is the best time to eat? ›
Plan to eat breakfast within an hour of waking. This way, your breakfast doesn't blend into a mid-morning snack or grazing followed closely by lunch. Lunch should be about four to five hours after breakfast. For example, if you ate breakfast at 7 am, eat lunch between 11 am and noon.
Should you drink water before bed? ›
It's important to drink enough water during the day, however, it can be disruptive if you drink directly before bed. Avoid drinking water or any other fluids at least two hours before sleeping to prevent waking up at night.Should I stop eating after 9pm? ›
Besides the extra calories, eating too close to bedtime can have other health implications such as digestive issues. When sleeping, our digestion naturally slows down as our metabolism enters a resting state. Lying down in bed immediately after eating can lead to symptoms such as indigestion, acid reflux and heartburn.What time should you stop drinking water? ›
When's the best time to stop drinking water? It's often recommended that you should stop drinking water two hours before going to bed. This way, you're not flooding your body with extra fluids that may cause an unwanted trip to the bathroom in the middle of the night.What food makes you sleepy? ›
- Almonds. Almonds are a type of tree nut with many health benefits. ...
- Turkey. Turkey is delicious and nutritious. ...
- Chamomile tea. ...
- Kiwi. ...
- Tart cherry juice. ...
- Fatty fish. ...
- Walnuts. ...
- Passionflower tea.
If you eat too much and exercise too little, you're likely to carry excess weight — including belly fat. Also, your muscle mass might diminish slightly with age, while fat increases.What habits causes belly fat? ›
Causes include poor diet, lack of exercise, and short or low-quality sleep. A healthy diet and active lifestyle can help people lose excess belly fat and lower the risk of problems associated with it.What foods causes belly fat? ›
Common foods in the diet that can be high in added sugar can include baked goods, pastries, muffins, flavored yogurts, breakfast cereals, granola and protein bars, prepackaged foods, sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), and other processed foods ( 5 ).Is it good to drink water immediately after eating? ›
In fact, drinking water during or after a meal helps how your body breaks down and processes food (digestion). Water is vital for good health. Water and other drinks help break down food so that your body can take in (absorb) the nutrients. Water also makes stool softer, which helps prevent constipation.Why do I sleep better after eating? ›
“Oftentimes, when you're eating a meal rich in carbohydrates and protein, you may feel sleepier because you have an uptake of tryptophan from the protein and then an increase of serotonin,” explains Zumpano. Eating also causes your blood sugar levels to rise, which can lead to a decrease in energy.Is cheese good before bed? ›
Best for better sleep:
An ounce of cheese and a few whole-grain crackers is an excellent choice for a pre-bed nosh. The calcium in cheese helps your body use the tryptophan that's naturally found in dairy to make melatonin, a hormone produced in a tiny gland in the middle of your brain.
Which nuts help you sleep? ›
Nuts like almonds, walnuts. View Source , pistachios, and cashews are often considered to be a good food for sleep. Though the exact amounts can vary, nuts contain melatonin as well as essential minerals like magnesium.Why is yogurt good before bed? ›
Dairy products such as Greek Yogurt contain an amino acid called tryptophan, which may help you to feel drowsier before heading to bed. After you eat foods rich in tryptophan, your body converts it into two hormones, serotonin and melatonin, which may promote a restful night's sleep.Why do old people eat early? ›
Many elders suffer from constipation. This can all affect the way your elderly parents eat. Particularly, they may eat dinner earlier to avoid nighttime indigestion. Other physical issues may impact the ability to shop and prepare meals.
- 6:00 to 9:45 a.m. This is the best time for breakfast. ...
- 10 a.m. Snacktime. ...
- 1 p.m. Lunch break. ...
- 6 p.m. Dinnertime.
When you don't eat often enough in a day, you'll experience a drop in blood sugar, or glucose, the main sugar found in your blood. Low blood sugar can make you feel tired, dizzy, sluggish, shaky and like you may pass out.Is 9pm too late for dinner? ›
There's no such thing as a set time you should eat dinner.
Someone who wakes up at 5am could be having dinner at 5pm, while someone who goes to sleep at 1am could be having dinner at 10pm–none of it is inherently wrong or unhealthy, according to Farah Fahad, registered dietitian and founder of The Farah Effect.
A study published in the International Journal of Obesity showed that people who eat late at night have a higher body mass index (BMI).What time should you don't eat after? ›
If you want to maintain or lose weight, then you shouldn't eat after 7 p.m. There are myriad reasons why people might not want to eat after a certain time in the evening, especially if it's close to when they go to sleep, says Cara Harbstreet, M.S., R.D., L.D., owner of Street Smart Nutrition..What time should I stop eating to lose weight? ›
As a guide, stop eating two to three hours before bed to avoid weight gain. Finishing meals earlier than this may help boost weight loss. We bring sleep research out of the lab and into your life.What time should you not eat after? ›
Experts say that having a late-night meal keeps the body on 'high alert' at a time where it should be winding down, which can have dangerous implications for our health. Researchers have now said that we should never eat within two hours of our bedtime, and ideally, nothing after 7pm.
What time of day is metabolism highest? ›
Timing. It is good to be aware of timing. We burn most calories in the late afternoon and early evening and the least in the very early morning. Most people burn about 10 per cent more calories between 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Our body torches maximum calories at this time frame, regardless of what we do.What makes you fat fast? ›
Foods for gaining weight quickly and safely. People who need to gain weight can often do this by increasing their intake of foods rich in whole carbohydrates, healthy fats, and protein. Examples include whole grains, dried fruit, potatoes, avocados, oily fish, eggs, and dairy products.What causes belly fat? ›
If you eat too much and exercise too little, you're likely to carry excess weight — including belly fat. Also, your muscle mass might diminish slightly with age, while fat increases.