Myth Busting: Is It Bad To Eat Before Bed?

Eucalyptus VC

You may have wondered – is it ‘bad’ to eat before bed? Or more specifically, is it ‘bad’ to eat carbs before bed? Keep reading to find out the facts to consider when thinking about a late-night snack.

Your Circadian Rhythm

Your Circadian Rhythm is your body’s internal 24-hour clock, which tells you when to sleep, wake, eat and is responsible for many more functions of the body.

Your body burns more kilojoules earlier in the day, so being in sync with your natural Circadian Rhythm also helps regulate your metabolism and supports your body’s ability to burn kilojoules more effectively. As time moves into the evening, your metabolism is still active but not as efficient as earlier in the day.

So No Snacks Before Bed?

It depends.

The Sleep Health Foundation recommends to allow between 2-3 hours between your last main meal and going to bed. Eating a main meal within 2 hours before bed, may impact the quality of your sleep, it can increase the time it takes getting to sleep and the number of times waking during the night.

If you have a longer period between your last main meal and your bedtime, having a small light snack might be beneficial for your sleep, going to bed hungry can also cause poor sleep.

If you find yourself hungry at night, tune in to see if you’re truly hungry, perhaps try having a glass of water or cup of herbal tea. If you discover that you are still hungry, try having a light snack such as, a glass of milk or a piece of fruit.

Can I Eat Carbs Before Bed?

Yes, there’s no need to cut carbs before bed, but it is important to note the timing and type of carbohydrate matters.

While there is limited research on the best timing of carbohydrates before bed, studies have found consuming a large meal soon before bed may increase the time it takes you to fall asleep and the frequency of awakenings during the night. Further, a study found consuming a light snack (glass of milk or a piece fruit) 30-60 minutes before bed may promote good quality sleep.

Research has identified processed foods high in saturated fat and sugar, and low in fibre, may worsen the quality of your sleep. Studies indicate the importance of enjoying a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, wholegrain breads and cereals, lean protein and healthy fats can promote good quality sleep.

What Should I Avoid Eating And Drinking Before Bed?

There are a few foods and drinks you may want to avoid having before bed which can impact the quality of your sleep:

  • Rich, spicy or large meals – These foods can increase the likelihood of heartburn and reflux, which is caused when stomach acid travels back up the oesophagus. Allowing time before lying in bed for your food to digest can help to reduce your chances of experiencing these uncomfortable symptoms.
  • Alcohol – Although you may initially feel sleepy when you have alcohol, it has been shown to disrupt the overall quality of sleep. Research suggests avoiding alcohol for at least 4 hours before bed may minimise sleep disruption. Plus, cutting back on alcohol may improve your weight loss results too.
  • Caffeine (including coffee, tea, cola soft drinks and energy drinks) – The effects of caffeinated beverages can last between 3-7 hours, sometimes longer. Take note of how caffeine affects you and make adjustments accordingly, some people find it useful to avoid all caffeine after lunch. If you choose to cut back on caffeine, do so slowly – it can be addictive for some, so reducing your intake drastically may have some side effects, such as headaches, tiredness and anxiety.

The Bottom Line

While eating before bed isn’t the end of the world, it may impact on the quality of your sleep.

Allow 2-3 hours for your body to digest your main meal before going to bed. Try to avoid rich and spicy foods, caffeine and alcohol prior bed as these may negatively affect your sleep quality.

Aiming to get enough sleep regularly will enhance your energy levels, help you to feel your best and support you to achieve your weight loss goals.