Is eating before bed bad? Can it lead to weight gain? Does snacking before you sleep help you sleep better? These questions and much more like them have had us confused for years. The answer to these questions depends on individuals and what they eat. You must improve our habits so that you do not feel the need to snack right before our meals. If you must have a snack, make sure it is a healthy one so that it does not give you sleepless nights.
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Why is eating before bed bad?
Let us look at the various negative effects of eating before bedtime.
Eating before sleep does not cause weight gain. It is what you eat and how much you eat that leads to weight gain. We tend to eat high-calorie fatty comfort food when we snack late at night. Chips, sweets and cookies are high in calories and can lead to significant weight gain.
The mathematics of weight gain is pretty simple – If you consume more calories than you expend, you will gain weight. It doesn’t matter if you consume those calories in the morning or at night. So, if you must have a snack before bedtime, make sure it is healthy and not calories dense.
Heartburn happens when the acidic contents of the stomach rise back into the oesophagus. This can cause a severe burning sensation in the chest. These symptoms become worse if you lie down. Doctors recommend avoiding spicy and garlic flavoured food late at night.
Avoid eating acidic or fatty foods like tomato sauce, orange juice or fried snacks close to your bedtime. These foods can cause heartburn.
Eating or drinking too much late at night can cause insomnia. Drinks that contain caffeine like colas, tea and coffee should be avoided close to bedtime as they can affect your sleep. On the flip side, going to bed hungry can also affect your sleep. So, it is best to have a light snack containing carbohydrates and proteins to help you sleep better at night.
- Also read:How much sleep do I need?
If you are an asthma patient eating close to your bedtime can worsen your asthma symptoms. According to a study done by The American Journal of Gastroenterology, asthmatic patients who ate before sleeping had more gastroesophageal reflux symptoms like coughing, wheezing and suffocation than those who didn’t.
The study concluded that night-time eating habits could have serious consequences for asthma patients.
Disrupted eating pattern
If you eat late at night, there is a good chance that you will skip breakfast the next day. As a consequence of this, you may be starving by midday and will overeat at lunch. When your eating pattern gets disturbed, you are at a higher risk of ailments like indigestion and stroke.
Foods to avoid before bedtime
If you think that since alcohol before bedtime makes you drowsy, it will help you sleep better, you can’t be more wrong. Alcohol is more likely to keep you awake in the night and make you drowsy and irritable in the morning. Alcohol can also increase snoring which can disrupt sleep.
Coffee and tea
Coffee and tea contain caffeine which can have a disruptive influence on your sleep. Since these drinks tend to keep you awake through the night, your work gets affected the next day.
Spicy food can cause heartburn and indigestion, especially when taken close to the bedtime. Spicy food also raises the temperature of the body, making it harder to sleep well.
Though dark chocolate is considered a healthy snack as it is loaded with healthy antioxidants, it is not a good idea to have it close to your time to sleep. Dark chocolate contains theobromine, which had similar effects to caffeine. Having dark chocolate at bedtime can affect your sleep.
Processed food can put a burden on your digestive system and liver. If you have these foods right before you sleep, it is even worse because your liver, digestive system and kidneys have to work extra to digest these foods. So, this can lead to disturbed sleep.
Food you can have before bedtime
Most dieticians suggest that we must have our meals at least two to three hours before we sleep. However, if you have been awake for more than five hours after your dinner, it is natural for you to feel hungry. Opt for a healthy snack like a piece of fruit for a peaceful sleep.
- Avocados are high in magnesium and will help you sleep better.
- Turkey, soybean, edamame and pumpkin seeds contain tryptophan, which is good for sound sleep. Have light snacks containing these ingredients.
- Here are some healthy snacks you can have before you sleep.
- Have a cup of cereal with milk.
- Munch on a whole wheat toast with some peanut butter.
- Have a piece of fruit like an apple or a pear.
Whether or not one should eat before bed depends on the kinds of food you eat. It is a bad idea to overeat right before you sleep as it can lead to indigestion. However, having controlled portions of healthy snacks can be beneficial to your health.