The Drawbacks of Eating Before Bed

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Everyone understands the importance of healthy eating. What we eat, and how much we eat, has a major impact on our long-term health. A good diet can lead to lots of benefits in later life, such as strong bones, while a bad diet can result in conditions that otherwise may not have developed, such as diabetes or heart conditions. But one often overlooked aspect of a healthy diet is not what we eat, or how much, but when we eat.

Our eating habits tend to vary from household to household, a fact that has been exacerbated by the decline of the traditional 9-5 working week. A study conducted by Bord Bia in 2019 found that dinner is no longer the main meal for 17% of Irish adults, with an increasing number of people taking their main meal in the afternoon. But the overwhelming majority of people still have their largest meal in the evening, some later than they should.

While it may be easy to nod off right after a hearty dinner, doing so is not good for your health. One potential consequence of sleeping after eating is gastroesophageal reflux disease, or acid reflux, which can occur when lying down on a full stomach, and lead to heartburn.

Additionally, people who eat before bed reduce their quality of sleep. Digestion is a mechanical process, and trying to digest a large meal will make it harder to fall asleep, and stay asleep. One study found that the closer to bedtime people eat, the more it will reduce the quality of their sleep. On the flipside, the actual digestion process is not as efficient when we are asleep. This not only reduces the nutritional benefits of the meal, but also increases the risk of obesity.

A light snack before sleep shouldn’t cause any issues, but ideally, we should leave at least two hours between eating dinner and heading to bed. A bit of physical activity after eating can help speed up the digestion process, but ultimately, the drawbacks of eating before sleeping will remain. For the sake of your long-term health, the best thing you can do is

remember that when you eat can be just as important as what.

If you'd like to learn more about how you can improve your diet, please get in touch today.