Should you eat before bed?
Updated: Nov 30, 2020
This is a question that is often debated, usually in the context of whether eating before bed will in some way promote weigh gain or not. While there is some truth that those people who eat before sleeping do gain weight, the reason is more often than not because they are eating more than they normally would. So, it's related to their eating their daily allowance and then going over that amount, usually by snacking on heavy or junk foods.
What is not the cause of this weight gain, however, is going to sleep, itself, contrary to what many tend to think. You see, it's not as though your body shuts down and your metabolism draws to a halt while sleeping. No, in fact, your body is still using up energy when you are asleep in bed.
So, does that mean that it's okay to eat right before going to bed?
Well, not really. See, the question that people might want to ask themselves is not about weight gain or loss but rather sleep quantity and quality. The main reason why I wouldn't recommend eating right before going to bed is that it actually does interfere with sleep. The sleep you would be getting would be lighter. Moreover, there is some evidence of an increased association with eating before bed and experiencing disturbing dreams, even nightmares.
What about if you get hungry?
... And you should know that you probably will! You see, regardless of chronotype, people are hungrier at night than during the day. Interesting. Right? It's even more pronounced when you're a night owl like me.
So, what can you do?
Well, your last meal should be at least 3 hours before bedtime. If you need to eat later at night and right before bed, then you might want to drink water because you may actually be thirsty rather than hungry. Remember not to drink too much; you don't want to be going to the washroom and disrupting your sleep that way. If that doesn't help and you're really starved, hold the sugar. You might want tart cherries or a light snack that combines a complex carbohydrate with some protein. Think oatmeal and nuts or crackers and almond butter.
You know, this is actually a subject that I think about quite a bit because I am a night owl, and I do tend to get hungrier at night. However, I also go to bed later than others. Many night owls, on the other hand, don't have that option. Do not worry, though, because my sleep initiative partners and I have resources available to help people, including night owls, learn about how to eat for better sleep, which we'll be launching in the fall.
In the meantime, remember not to eat too close to bedtime ... not because you're concerned about weight gain but because of its influence on your sleep.