Sleep is of topmost importance to the wellbeing of the body. So is eating. Many factors like sleeping positions, quality of sleeping surface, health conditions can affect how much rest you can get from your sleep. Though often not considered, your diet has a lot to do with your sleep quality. And this is in both a positive and negative sense. Some people believe that eating heavy meals past six in the evening sets precedence to an uncomfortable night of sleep and unnecessary weight gain. Others say if you do not eat well, you cannot possibly sleep soundly.
On several occasions, I have gone to sleep immediately after eating, and other times I ate many hours before my sleep time came. And I can say, I preferred those times I waited. I slept better and woke up as early as I wanted, and it all boils down to habits developed over time.
There are plenty of misconceptions surrounding when one should sleep after eating and when not to. Questions like “should I eat close to my bedtime,” or “what should I eat before sleeping” show that you are concerned about your body’s wellness and require answers. It is good to note that habits like overeating or eating unhealthy foods at night and during the day will not impact your sleep in any positive way.
Why Should I Eat before Sleep?
Prevents Night Snacking: If you find yourself reaching out for snacks and desserts in the middle of the night, you might want to start eating healthy meals before sleep. When you eat a good portion of your dinner, the chances of being hungry and snacking on unhealthy foods lessen.
Weight Loss: Studies show that when you eat well before sleeping, especially when the food is high in protein and complex carbohydrates, the body gets to give up on the fats that are not needed and helps you lose weight. Some health problems have been associated with being overweight, hence the need to watch your calorie intake.
Proper Body Metabolism: The body is never actually at rest unless one is dead. During sleep, the body is still functioning as much as it was when you are awake. The energy gotten from the food you eat ensures that you remain in optimum shape.
Better Sleep: Eating well before sleep prevents one from waking up hungry in the middle of the night. Also, some snacks and food induce sleep. Insomniacs are treated by being asked to consume such meals when they need to sleep. These foods are often those rich in tryptophan, which is a compound found in proteins. Tryptophan is converted into serotonin and melatonin, which are neurotransmitters that help induce or regulate sleep. Such foods include fish, poultry, and dairy products. Healthy snacking at night can also help you sleep better instead of having a stomach too full that you cannot rest. Mattreses and pillows that you use, also effect the quality of the sleep.
Maintenance of Blood Sugar: Fruits and fibrous meals keep the blood sugar at the right level. When eaten before sleep, they provide your body with the necessary glucose required to get you going the next day.
Reasons to Avoid Eating Before Sleep
Weight Gain: Evidence suggests that eating before sleeping might lead to weight gain in individuals. It may have less to do with the act of eating and more to do with the caloric content of the food. The exact timing before sleeping and the type of food also matters. Due to work and other activities, most persons that do not take time to eat correctly during the day find themselves binge-eating at night. This disorder pushes them way above the recommended daily calories needed for the functioning of their body. Again, those bedtime snacks taken while watching the television or movies before sleep, increase calorie intake. If these unhealthy habits continue for a prolonged period, it may result in over-eating, which leads to weight gain and obesity.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon ailment as most people would want. GERD, also known as just acid reflux, occurs when the stomach acid finds its way to the throat. Its symptoms include heartburn, a lump in the throat, bitter taste in the mouth, and difficulty swallowing. After eating and lying down on the bed, stomach acid can easily splash into the throat and cause acid reflux.
Indigestion: if you have not yet suffered from indigestion at any point in your life, you are unique. It involves stomach pain resulting from over-eating or eating a heavy meal. It keeps you restless and unable to sleep. Symptoms often include belching, nausea, stomach burning, and a bloated stomach.
Unhealthy Habits: As earlier stated, unhealthy habits such as snacking on junk foods, overeating at any time, mindless eating while watching television and movies, become more prevalent at night. These habits develop over time and, if left unchecked, may lead to cravings for foods harmful to the smooth operation of the body. They may also prevent you from sleeping early and have adverse effects on your body system.
Poor Efficiency and Low Brain Concentration Levels: Late night eating is bad for the efficient functioning of your brain. Ever thought about that? Eating at irregular times affects the circadian rhythm of your body’s sleep/wake cycle. It then alters your internal clock and the brain’s ease of learning, impacting concentration.
Poor Sleep: Foods with high sugar content are fantastic, but not when eaten before sleep. Like coffee, their primary aim is to recharge the body, increasing your energy level to a high that keeps you awake and prevents you from getting the sleep you desire.
Diabetes and Heart Diseases: Eating before sleep opens one to the chances of having high blood sugar, and when the body cannot regulate it, diabetes results. People with diabetes are advised not to eat close to their bedtime. It is because their body does not produce enough insulin that helps regulate the blood sugar level. As such, they often have high sugar in the blood without any effort on their side. Also, fatty foods will increase the body’s cholesterol content, thereby increasing the risks of heart challenges for diabetics and other individuals.
What Should I Eat Before Sleep?
You may probably be wondering if eating late at night is not recommended by nutritionists and dieticians, how about when you wake up to an empty rumbling stomach in the middle of the night because you ate on time? Well, do not fret yet. Sleep experts say that fruits and certain foods are equipped with minerals like magnesium, calcium, and several vitamins that encourage restful sleep without endangering you or triggering any weight gain. The food eaten before sleep may promote it or ruin it ultimately. So, before knowing what you should eat, here are some meals and snacks to avoid:
- Spicy foods
- Alcoholic drinks
- Foods containing caffeine.
The above is practically like saying avoid foods that may induce cravings or high sugar and bad fat. Alcohol may seem like a great sleep inducer, but it’s drowsy effects wear off and keep you from feeling well-rested. Also, you might wake up with a hangover. Caffeine contributes to insomnia by preventing the production of adenosine, another sleep-inducing chemical, and by increasing the chances of your waking up on intervals to urinate. The advantages which the recommended meals have over the ones above are that they are all healthy dishes that build your immune system and are very low in calorie content. These healthy night foods and fruits, which also promote better sleep include:
- Plain Yogurt
- Boiled Eggs
- Whole-grain carbohydrates like oatmeal
- All vegetables
These healthy meals will give your body the energy it needs to sustain you all through the night. Most of them are rich in tryptophan, which increases your chances of falling asleep faster, hence improving the quality of your sleep. Oats will boost insulin production, so your blood sugar level is maintained.
The Ideal Interval to Wait Before Sleeping After a Meal
It has been agreed that our eating habits contribute to our sleep quality and secondly, what we eat matters. The next thing becomes, what is the perfect amount of time to wait before sleeping after eating. An old myth suggests that one should wait for about thirty minutes after eating to go swimming to avoid drowning. The same idea applies here, and though it is not necessarily a rule, it is worth adhering to when possible. For sleeping, try waiting for about three hours or more after eating. You can decide to catch up on your reading or have a conversation with your partner or check your social media accounts. This interval enables the body to digest the food properly so that challenges like indigestion, heartburns, and acid refluxes do not keep you awake and sick. The food eaten is also allowed to digest and be converted into the compounds needed by the body.
How Can I Keep Myself from Late Night Eating?
To train your body to eat early, try having an early dinner at around seven or eight at night. However, do not have your dinner so early that you will get hungry when you want to sleep. If you do for any reason, healthy snacks or fruits like those mentioned above can be of great help. It is best not to have any fatty or junk available, especially for those with the tendency to succumb to food cravings. Researchers have found that some form of mastication can influence your appetite in fantastic ways. Also, do not undertake any strenuous activities after dinner, as this could increase your cravings. Ensure you eat regularly all through the day by developing and sticking to an eating routine.
Figuring out if you have eating disorders may help you as you strive towards staying healthy. You should also know that night-eating syndrome (NES) and binge-eating tendencies can occur even if you are not always hungry. These disorders can be managed by removing oneself from negative emotions, avoiding any form of stress, and finding ways to relax. In severe cases, a nutritionist or an emotional support group should be consulted to help you overcome these challenges and improve your lifestyle.
There is no law against eating before sleep. Also, there are many conflicting thoughts about the advantages and disadvantages of night-time eating. The best rule is, if you cannot sleep without eating, then do it the right way. Being deprived of sleep can lead to overeating, which is not a good idea. However, try to regulate the kind of night food you eat as this will affect your health in the long run. Eat a small amount and lay off unhealthy snacks. Finally, do not wait until very late at night before eating. Give your food time to digest, and your body will thank you for it.
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