Is Eating Before Bed Okay?

WRITTEN BY: Sleep Medicine
Thursday, July 2nd, 2015

Whether you’ve heard that late-night snacks can pack on the pounds or that a few crackers and a mug of warm milk will help you fall asleep, rumors about eating before bed abound. Some people swear that eating too close to bedtime can lead to stomachaches and weight gain, while others can’t hit the hay without a nighttime snack. There are even questions surrounding whether different types of food consumed before bed have different health effects. Here, we separate fact from fiction.

Fact or Fiction: Eating Before Bed Makes You Gain Weight

Fiction. This myth might stem from the concept that we need to burn calories to lose weight. But it doesn’t really matter when you take in those calories or when you burn them (through exercise). Weight gain and loss occurs over time, so eating a snack or even a meal close to slumber won’t affect what you see on the scale, as long as you get regular physical activity. In fact, a little food before bed can help keep in check hunger hormones that signal your body to store fat.

Fact or Fiction: Snacking Helps You Sleep

Fact. A bedtime snack can help stabilize your blood sugar levels, particular if you eat dinner early or have a very active day. That’s important, because low blood sugar can keep you up at night, as well as make it difficult to wake up feeling energized the next morning. Your body needs energy, even for sleep—but make sure you choose the right foods. Pass up high-sugar, high-carbohydrate treats like cookies and ice cream, instead opting for a little protein and fat, such as a piece of chicken, an avocado, or a spoonful of nut butter.

Fact or Fiction: A Pre-Bed Nosh Can Hurt Your Stomach

Fact — sometimes. When it comes to eating before bed, certain foods are better than others. In general, you should limit your snack to a small portion that contains fewer than 200 calories. Larger meals can make your gastrointestinal system work overtime to digest all that food, which can keep you up at night. Greasy, fatty, and heavy foods can also stress your stomach. And you should avoid spicy foods before bed, which can trigger an upset stomach, heartburn, and acid reflux. In fact, if you suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), it may be a good idea to skip late-night snacks altogether.

Now that you know the facts, what changes do you — or don’t you — plan to make to your late night snacking habits? Let us know in the comments below!

sleep medicine

Sleep Medicine

UPMC’s Sleep Medicine Center — accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine — is the only multidisciplinary sleep medicine facility in western Pennsylvania. The Sleep Medicine Center performs approximately 2,000 sleep studies annually for adult patients with all types of sleep disorders. The staff at the UPMC Sleep Medicine Center includes board certified physicians, certified nurse practitioners, and registered sleep laboratory technologists. Read More