Sleep And Overeating: Is It Harmful to Eat Before Bed? Update 12/2022

We all know how important it is to get enough sleep and eat healthily in order to maintain excellent health. Often forgotten, however, is the fact that sleep and nutrition are intertwined.

The connection between lack of sleep and binge eating is a significant factor in this relationship. When people are sleep-deprived, they are more likely to overeat and choose unhealthy foods, which can lead to weight gain.

Sleep can be disrupted by overeating as well. Excessive eating, especially if it includes heavy or spicy fare, might make it difficult to go asleep since it interferes with digestion and increases the likelihood of heartburn. As a result, the majority of professionals advise avoiding overindulging in the hours leading up to bedtime.

The first step to managing your nutrition and sleep is to recognize the bidirectional relationship between sleep and overeating.

Does Lack Sleep Cause Overeating?

Insufficient sleep has been linked to an increased risk of overeating and making poor food choices, according to numerous research. Insufficient sleep has also been connected to weight gain and an increased risk of obesity, which is not surprising.

Overeating is a result of sleep loss disrupting regular hormone production. The hunger and appetite-regulating hormones leptin and ghrelin, as well as other hormones, are all affected by the amount of sleep one gets.

In terms of hunger, ghrelin and leptin are intimately linked. Increased levels of ghrelin and decreasing levels of leptin are linked to sleep deprivation, which increases appetite and cravings. Being awake for a longer period of time increases the likelihood of overeating.

The regions of the brain that govern our relationship with food are similarly impacted by a lack of sleep. Brain activity in areas associated with the perception of food as a reward is increased in those with sleep deprivation, which increases our propensity to overeat.

Even more distressing, these alterations in the brain appear to be stronger with meals that are more likely to lead to obesity. People who don’t get enough sleep have an increased desire for high-calorie foods, according to one study. Sleep deprivation may be a contributing cause of increased rates of childhood obesity in young children and adolescents.

Obstructive sleep apnea, a respiratory problem that disrupts sleep on a regular basis, might be exacerbated by a person’s tendency to overeat. In particular, at night, overeating might cause sleep disturbances. Poor sleep can lead to overeating, and overeating can lead to even poorer sleep, creating a vicious cycle.

Does Overeating Affect Sleep?

Sleep can be disrupted if you consume too much. The digestion process, which can take many hours after a large meal, requires the body to expend a lot of energy. However, because digestion slows down when you sleep, your body’s regular sleep cycle conflicts with your stomach’s digesting requirements. A recent study indicated that people who ate close to bedtime had more sleep disturbances.

Sleep deprivation has been linked to an increase in calorie and fat intake, according to studies. Overconsumption of some foodstuffs might increase the negative consequences of sleep deprivation caused by overeating. Interrupted sleep has been linked to, among other things, meals heavy in sugar and saturated fat and poor in fiber.

Discomfort can make it difficult to sleep if you’ve overeaten. In addition to making you feel stuffed, eating a much can cause or exacerbate acid reflux, which can make it difficult to get a good night’s sleep because of the resulting discomfort. If you eat a lot of spicy meals, fatty foods, or chocolate, you may be more prone to suffer from heartburn. Large meals with certain foods can also interrupt sleep by boosting body temperature, which goes against the body’s normal process of cooling down while it sleeps.

How Can You Sleep Well After Overeating?

You may be able to obtain a decent night’s sleep even if you’ve eaten too much:

  • Give it time: It is best to avoid going to sleep until your body has had time to digest your food.
  • Drink water: Because of their gas content, avoid carbonated beverages when you’re feeling bloated, but don’t forget to stay hydrated.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine: If you want to get a good night’s sleep, steer clear of both of them.
  • Try light physical activity: To assist you digest, you may want to take a short stroll at a moderate speed or do light stretching. You don’t want to overdo it.
  • Prevent heartburn: You can prevent acid reflux by raising the head of your bed by six inches and sleeping on your left side. There may be some relief from heartburn if you follow these instructions.
  • Optimize your bedroom: Avoiding sleep disturbances, such as excessive light or noise, can aid in falling asleep and getting back to sleep if you wake up in the middle of the night after overeating.

Is It Harmful to Eat Before Bed?

The timing of when you eat is just as important as the amount or type of food you consume. Eating three hours before bedtime has been linked to a higher risk of sleep disturbances, especially if you overeat at supper. Acid reflux, which is more common after a late dinner, might worsen sleep.

Eating just before going to bed might have a negative impact on your weight gain, as well as your quality of sleep. Circadian rhythm, the body’s natural clock, aids digestion and blood sugar control during the day. As a result, a late dinner may impair metabolism, lead to an increase in body fat, and raise one’s chance of becoming obese.

Studies show that consuming the bulk of calories during the day is preferred because of the potential impact on sleep and weight. People who are concerned about their nutrition and sleep should speak with their doctor or a nutritionist for guidance that is specific to their situation because nutritional demands might vary depending on a person’s circumstances.

The sleep-snacking link

You’re not the only one who craves sweets after a bad night’s sleep. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, eating more food, especially sugary meals, was linked to lower sleep quality (hello, cookies for breakfast).

According to another study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people who slept for 5.5 hours less per night had more sugary, fattening snacks during the day than those who slept for 8.5 hours per night.

A look at the science

If you’ve been tossing and turning all night and still can’t resist a doughnut, here’s what you need to know. It all begins with leptin, a hormone that sends messages to your brain that you’ve eaten enough to satisfy your hunger.

Dr. Monique May, MD, MHA, a board-certified physician and Medical Director of Sleep at Aeroflow Healthcare, explains that proper sleep is the only way to create leptin, a hormone that combats overeating.

The following is a detailed breakdown of the game:

  • In your fat cells and small intestine, leptin production is stimulated during sleep by the release of proteins from your brain.
  • When you don’t get enough sleep, your body is unable to create as much leptin as it needed to regulate your metabolism and hunger.
  • Another consequence is an increase in ghrelin, a hormone that drives hunger, due to sleep deprivation.

Higher BMI has been linked to the sleep-deprivation mix — too little leptin and too much ghrelin. There is nothing worse than being too tired to go for your morning jog or afternoon yoga session when you haven’t had enough sleep. This can put you in a vicious cycle of overeating and underactivity that can be difficult to overcome.

How to get your sleep schedule back on track

When it comes to losing weight, a lack of sleep can wreak havoc on even the most meticulously planned diet. Here’s how to get the zzzs you need.

  • Maintain a healthy sleep schedule. The production of the sleep hormone melatonin, which induces drowsiness and helps you drift off to sleep, is triggered by putting on your pajamas at the same time every night. In order to maintain a regular sleep schedule, you must wake up at the same time every day of the week.
  • Turn off your tech. As a result of the blue light emitted by electronic devices such as computers, tablets, cell phones, and televisions, melatonin is suppressed. Two hours before you want to retire for the night, turn off any screens that emit intense light.
  • Avoid late-night snacks. Sleep quality was found to be worse for persons who ate late at night, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.
  • Make movement a priority. It’s harder to find the motivation to work out when you’re tired, but that’s exactly what you need to help you drift off to sleep. According to a study published in Advances in Preventive Medicine, people who exercised throughout the day were more likely to have a good night’s rest that night than those who didn’t.
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