Late-Night Eating Effects on Health & Sleep

Apr 16, 2024

Late night snacking is a tricky little habit that many of us find hard to break. You might think sneaking into the kitchen for that little morsel before bed is harmless, but the truth is that habit might be sabotaging your whole night’s sleep. The allure of snacks after dark is strong, but here’s the lowdown on how your late night fridge raids are messing with your sleep and body’s defenses and why you should avoid them.


The Rhythm of the Body is Circadian

Our bodies are governed by circadian rhythms, which are essentially 24-hour internal clocks that play a critical role in when we fall asleep and wake up. It keeps things ticking away and running like clockwork. If you find yourself waking up at the same time every morning without an alarm clock, that’s the result of your circadian rhythm and sleep-wake cycle working together. These rhythms also influence our digestion, body temperature, and hormone release. Your system stays up to process any food you eat, and that means you’re not getting the shut-eye you need.


The Impact on Sleep Quality: Scientific and Academic Research Over Sleep

When you consume food, your body’s digestive system kicks into gear, working to break down the food into nutrients. That much is obvious. But an important piece of information is that this process uses up energy and results in the production of stomach acid - lying down after you eat is like tipping a decanter of acid into your esophagus. Hello, acid reflux. So not only will sleeping be uncomfortable, but your metabolism is also on the night shift. This means that the calories you consume at night are more likely to be stored as fat rather than burned for energy. This can lead to weight gain and an increased risk of metabolic disorders like diabetes.


Metabolic Mayhem & a Sleep Habit Tracker

Like we mentioned earlier, the timing of your meals can affect your metabolism. Your metabolism works with your circadian rhythm in order to create an optimal eating window. Nighttime is when your body is preparing for rest, not activity, and as such, your metabolic rate slows down. You want to eat dinner a few hours before bed. If you’re locked into a cycle of eating before bed, a sleep habit tracker can help remind you when the chow down window is closing. These programs and apps can be game changing for people who need a guiding hand for feeling out and capitalizing on their circadian rhythm.


Hormonal Disturbances

Late-night eating can also disrupt the balance of hormones related to hunger and satiety, such as ghrelin and leptin. You’ll wake up hungrier, making you more likely to overeat unhealthy, high-calorie foods. And that’s a battle you don’t want to fight every day


Psychological Effects: Why Do I Get So Tired After I Eat?

Don’t underestimate the mind games here. Eating late at night can become a very difficult habit to break, as it creates a cycle of emotional eating. This can have implications for mental health, as it may be tied to feelings of guilt, stress, and poor self-esteem. Exhaustion after eating may be linked to the types of food you eat, as well as the habitual timing of your meals.


Strategies for Change

Time to strategize. To combat the negative effects of late-night eating, it’s important to adopt healthier habits:

  • Enforce a Curfew: Lockdown the kitchen early. Stick to a regular meal schedule to help regulate your circadian rhythms.
  • Mindful Eating: Be conscious of your eating habits. If you’re going to snack, make it something that won’t come back to bite you. Think light and healthy. Ask yourself if you’re truly hungry or just eating out of boredom or habit.
  • Prepare for Cravings: Have healthy snacks ready for when cravings strike. Choose foods that are high in protein and fiber to keep you full. Sometimes, you’re not hungry; you’re just parched. Water is your friend.
  • Decompress: Before you hit the sack, wind down with some non-food-related R&R.

By taking steps to understand and pivot to cater to your body’s needs, you can enjoy improved sleep, better health, and a greater sense of well-being. It’s not just about resisting the urge to snack; it’s about creating a lifestyle that supports your body’s natural processes and leads to a happier, healthier you. And if you need help staying on the ball in the beginning of your sleep journey, join our Six-Week Sleep Bootcamp and enjoy the beautiful experience of energized mornings.