Home / Blog March 15, 2023 Updated on December 28, 2023

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Is It Bad To Eat Before Bed? 7 Side Effects Of Immediately Sleeping After Eating

Some of the possible side effects of sleeping immediately after eating include worsened indigestion symptoms, weight gain, and disruptions to sleep patterns. However, when not overdone, some foods like protein shakes and kiwi fruit can actually have positive effects on muscle growth and sleep.

Is It Bad To Eat Before Bed? 7 Side Effects Of Immediately Sleeping After Eating

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Eating too much before sleeping can lead to discomfort from digestion, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (acid reflux), post meal tiredness, and contribute to weight gain.

Some research has also shown that overeating before bed can disrupt the body's circadian rhythm, resulting in difficulties falling asleep, decreased sleep quality, and daytime sleepiness.

If you want an evening snack, avoid high-carb, high-fat foods liked fried foods, as well as spicy foods - instead, opt for healthy foods that are rich in protein, or fruits.

Did you know?
Studies have shown that drinking protein shakes before bed can give a bigger boost to muscle growth compared to when it’s consumed earlier in the day.

Late night eating has been the boogeyman in weight-loss circles for a long time now. And while some research suggests that it can be good for muscle growth, many studies still suggest staying away from eating meals before bedtime, for it can directly contribute to poor sleep, low blood sugar, and sleep deprivation. Here are 7 Side Effects Of Immediately Sleeping After Eating, and why you should stay away from eating before sleeping, for a good night's sleep.

1. Sleep Interruptions From Lack Of Comfort

The first effect of snoozing after eating is something that many of us can probably relate to: it interferes with your sleep quality that night. After all, who hasn't had a heavy meals - lined up at the buffet, for example - piled food on their plate, and ended up waddling away with a full belly, only to feel intense postprandial fatigue (known as post meal drowsiness, or food coma)?

When it comes to sleep, you don't need to stuff yourself like a thanksgiving turkey to feel uncomfortable - even if you are eating light, smaller meals can be tough for your body to digest once you lay down, resulting in poor quality sleep. You will find yourself struggling to stay asleep, and wake up exhausted from insufficient sleep.

This is because as you move farther away from the upright position, gravity isn't helping to speed up the digestive process. That leads to undigested scraps weighing you down for longer than necessary, which is why you will have trouble sleeping and wake without a good night's rest.

The worsened sleep quality might not be such a big issue at first, depending on what you ate. But for many people, the extra aggravation leads to difficulty sleeping and interruptions to the sleep cycle, which is why you may feel tired even after getting enough sleep - you will feel sleepy because of the disruption in your circadian rhythm, which can result in sleep disorder if your low sleep quality persists.

food to avoid before sleep

2. Heartburn

Sometimes indigestion isn't just a matter of a little discomfort - it can lead to pain from heartburn, which is another reason to avoid eating big meals too close to bedtime.

And it’s another reason to avoid eating big meals too close to bedtime.

The reason heartburn tends to get worse in from eating before bed is because lying down can lead to partially digested food and acids reversing their course and moving back up toward the chest. That's where the term 'heartburn' comes from. Acid reflux happens while standing, too, but placing your body in a horizontal position just makes heartburn more likely. This bitter taste of stomach acid isn't just painful, it can also have long term negative impacts on your sleep.

If you're experiencing frequent issues with heartburn, one way to make life a little easier is to sleep on your left side. Doing this may ease your symptoms of heartburn because the stomach is on that side of the body, and help you fall asleep with less chances of acid reflux.

And just as other kinds of pain negatively impact sleep, heartburn can do the same.

If you’re experiencing frequent issues with heartburn, one way to make life a little easier is to sleep on your left side. Doing this may ease your symptoms of heartburn because the stomach is on that side of the body.

And if you're not a natural side-sleeper, our Cuddler might give you the boost you need. It's a full-sized, ergonomic body pillow that you can hug, and studies show that it may help increase total time spent in the side position during sleep, helping you fall asleep faster and get better nighttime sleep.

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3. Raised Core Body Temperature

While heartburn only makes it feel like you’re on fire, the truth is that overeating before bed actually does raise your core temperature.

A study published in the Journal of Biological Rhythms compared staggered meal times in healthy adults and measured various sleep-related outcomes. It found that carbohydrate-rich meals consumed later in the evening led to a higher core body temperature and higher heart rate.

What does that mean for sleep? Well, it makes it harder - higher body temperature can result in disrupted sleep, as your circadian rhythm will.

In order to create the best conditions possible for a cozy sleep, we need our core temperature to drop. That’s why staying cool by lowering your room’s temperature or using more breathable bedding like our cooling weighted blanket can help.

Eating meals close to bed time does the opposite by putting the digestive system to work when it should be powering down. And that’s not the only unfortunate effect of running the digestive system during sleep.

4. Circadian Rhythm Shift

Regulating sleep in the human body is a tough job, and one of the systems that keeps it on track is called the circadian rhythm.

The more famous piece of this system relates to light: we need it bright during the day to remind us that we’re supposed to be awake and we need it dim at night to get us ready to hit the sack.

And recently, scientists are also finding evidence in mammals pointing to a separate circadian system based on the relationship between sleep and meal times.

In other words, changing the timing of our meals may confuse the inner clock, making it harder to fall asleep.

That very system can also lead to other issues down the road, especially for people who have no choice but to eat at odd times, like shift workers.

girl-eating-pizza

5. Weight Gain

Because of the body's natural meal time cycle, it goes into a state of energy conservation during sleep. That means less priority on using fuel from food and more on the body's reserves, resulting in your body to gain weight.

If you introduce a big meal before bed into the equation, one possible effect is that blood sugar levels will rise and the extra calories will be stored as fat. Higher blood sugar can pose health risks, for it has major implications for people who are at risk for type 2 diabetes - and it's one reason for people with the condition to monitor late-night snacks closely, and to stop eating late night snacks if they can.

In addition, studies have shown that a lack of sleep in general can lead to weight gain. So, if you're losing sleep for some of the above reasons, it can lead to a vicious cycle of weight-gain, which is detrimental to your metabolic health.

6. Sleep Interruptions From Hidden Caffeine

Are you sensitive to caffeine? If so, you can add that to the list of potential issues that arise from eating before bed time.

It’s a drug that works to block the sleep-inducing chemical, adenosine. And while we tend to associate caffeine with things like coffee and energy drinks, it can also show up in plenty of other unsuspecting foods.

Here’s a list of foods, drinks, and pills that you may want to make note of:

  1. Non-herbal teas (black teas have more caffeine than green or white)
  2. Matcha or coffee-flavored foods and drinks
  3. Chocolate (especially dark chocolate)
  4. Weight-loss supplements
  5. Aspirin
  6. Soda 

Caffeine takes 10 hours on average to work its way through your system, so if you’re consuming a pile of it before bed time, you can expect interruptions to your snooze

green weighted blanket

7. The Usual Effects Of Lack Of Sleep

If you take the above sleep-related effects like core body temperature increase, caffeine intake, and discomfort, you have a recipe for tossing and turning throughout the night. And even if it’s not noticeable, there may still be unconscious disruptions.

What do you get as a result of those little bumps in the road to quality sleep? Some of the short term side-effects of losing sleep from a full belly include:

  1. Inflamed skin, particularly around the eyes
  2. Mental haze throughout the day
  3. Headaches
  4. Irritability 

If losing significant sleep during the night becomes a habit, you may see some more serious side-effects:

  1. Shifting of your sleep schedule, making it harder to get to bed on time when you really want to
  2. Worsened mental health symptoms like depression and anxiety
  3. Higher chances of heart disease down the road
  4. High blood pressure 

It’s important to note that these are only possible links. They’re more likely to happen the more often you get in the way of sleep, and are less likely to result from lining up at the late-night buffet only once or twice.

Is It Bad To Eat Before Bed?

It’s clear that eating before bed can have several negative effects, from indigestion to weight gain. However, it’s important to note that the type of food and amount matters.

You may want to stop eating sugar-rich foods like bread, pasta, and sweets as they can cause blood sugar levels to spike at the wrong time, which will impede with restful sleep. Overloading on food in general can also have negative effects as it's difficult to digest.

With that said, if you have unavoidable hunger pangs at night, some foods are better than others for eating late at night.

What To Eat Before Bed

If you can't avoid eating close to bed time, the best meals to take in are protein-rich with complex carbohydrates like some fruits and vegetables. As a rule of thumb, it is important to watch your food intake especially if it's close to bedtime; having a small snack, not a large meal.

Here are a few ideas:

  1. Fruits like kiwis and tart cherries have been linked to better sleep
  2. Almonds or almond butter
  3. Protein shakes
  4. Greek yogurt
  5. Oatmeal 

What To Avoid Eating Before Bed

As for foods to avoid, consider high fat, high sugar foods to be the devil. If they’re processed, it’s even more important to stay away.

Here are some of the foods to avoid before bed:

  1. Carbohydrates like bread and pasta, especially if they’re not whole wheat
  2. Junk food like potato chips and donuts
  3. Food that may contain caffeine
  4. Spicy and acidic foods
  5. Alcohol 

Why Do We Usually Feel Sleepy After Eating?

While there are plenty of foods out there that can disrupt sleep for a variety of reasons, they also often make you sleepy. Unfortunately, why we feel sleepy after eating is still hotly debated, but there are several interesting theories.

One idea from researchers at Kyorin University in Japan suggests that the digestive process shifts blood flow to the small intestine, taking away some of the volume that makes its way to the brain. This may, in turn, lead to post meal sleepiness.

Another theory, supported by a study done on truckers, states that high fat, high carb meals are to blame.

Other research focuses on the volume of food consumed. However, none of these studies have led to a conclusive answer yet.

How Long Should You Wait To Go To Sleep After Having Food?

If you want to try staying away from food before bed, the ideal time for your last meal should be about three hours before you hit the hay. This gives the body plenty of time to put in the hard work on digestion so that you don’t feel as heavy in bed.

Another way it can help is by letting you know whether or not you’re in for a night of heartburn – and whether or not you need to get the antacids out.

Conclusion

The side effects of sleeping immediately after eating range from indigestion to weight gain and even possible circadian rhythm disruptions. Our Cuddler can help with heartburn and the Tree Napper may be a good option for keeping cool, but it’s important to avoid late-night snacking for the best possible sleep.