Late-Night Snacks and Better Sleep: How What (and When) You Eat Impacts Sleep and Health
When we eat late at night, the muscles that digest and metabolize our food have to keep working when they should be resting. This can delay your ability to fall asleep and can prevent you from getting the deep, restful stage of sleep you need to feel refreshed the next day.
Continually eating late night snacks and meals throws our bodies out of sync and is directly tied to poor health. Studies on late night eating show:
- Increased blood pressure.
- Increased blood sugar.
- Changes in metabolism.
- Increased weight gain.
If feeling hungry or eating at night is affecting your sleep’s quality, try these tips for a better night’s rest:
- Try to leave at least 2 hours between your last meal or snack and bedtime. If you often have nighttime heartburn, stop eating 3-4 hours before lying down.
- Make sure you are eating enough earlier in the day to prevent getting overly hungry at night. Eat breakfast within 1 to 2 hours of waking. Check in with your hunger every 3-4 hours for your meals and snacks.
- Get to bed on time. We often confuse our hunger with tiredness, so those late-night cravings may just be your body telling you that it needs some rest.
If you’re still hungry after dinner, or a rumbling stomach is keeping you awake, it’s O.K. to have a small snack. Choose something with protein and fiber, like:
- Greek yogurt.
- Fruit and cheese.
- Veggies and hummus.
- A small handful of almonds.
- Air-popped popcorn.
Finally, be mindful that while sugary foods and caffeine may satisfy your cravings, they are likely to prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep.
About the Author
Kate Watts, MS, RDN, LDN, CDE is a Dietician with the Cone Health Nutrition and Diabetes Management Center