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.
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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.
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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?
About Sleep Medicine
Getting a good night’s sleep is a crucial part of living a healthy life. But that’s a problem for millions of Americans dealing with sleep deprivation. The UPMC Sleep Medicine Center diagnoses and treats numerous sleep conditions or disorders. We also provide help to people suffering from lack of sleep because of other health problems. We recognize a lack of sleep can cause problems during other times of the day, including alertness, memory, and health immunity. We hold sleep studies and lead clinical trials, all in the name of helping you sleep.