This time of year, it can be very tempting to raid the fridge before bed. Who doesn't look forward to making a turkey sandwich out of leftovers, cuddling up under your favourite blanket, and falling asleep in front of the TV? I mean, sign me up! Right?
Although late-night snacks, even of this variety, may help you to fall asleep--they disrupt your quality of sleep overnight in several different ways and cause long term side effects if midnight snacking become a habit.
Below, we explain why midnight snacks do no favours for your sleep or health:
Heavy, spicy and acidic foods cause acid reflux, and laying down with this issue literally bubbling up inside you makes it much worse. It takes your stomach a couple of hours to empty after a meal, so, if you lay down and try to sleep too soon after eating (while your body is still digesting), acid from your full stomach leaks into your esophagus, adding to the acid reflux already occurring caused by spicy food or a heavy meal. This whole song-and-dance can be incredibly uncomfortable and distracting, which prevents the body from feeling relaxed definitely does not make falling asleep easy.
Rather than resting, repairing and restoring as the body normally should while you sleep, having a heavy snack before bed forces your body to work overtime and postpones those important three R's to focus on the digestive system. The result is restless sleep, strange dreams, and waking up not feeling rested, because, well, you didn't really rest at all.
Blood Sugar and Melatonin.
A big snack before bed spikes your blood sugar, causing an inevitable crash later on in the night while you're asleep. Experiencing a crash causes cortisol levels to rise and diminishes the production of melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone, naturally occurring the body, that helps to control your sleep and wake cycles. Disrupting the production of melatonin during sleep also causes restless sleep and makes it more likely that you will wake up before you are ready.
Impaired Cognitive Ability
REM sleep is a very important part of our sleep cycle in which our bodies process new skills and store memories. By upsetting our sleep cycle and interrupting REM sleep with functions like digesting, it introduces a misalignment between the brain and body clock, impairing our cognitive ability to learn and negatively affecting our memory.
Not digesting your food before sleeping affects your cholesterol, increases your risk of heart disease, affects your metabolism causing weight gain, and decreases your energy level for the next day making you feel groggy. It also raises glucose and insulin levels; both are causes of Type 2 diabetes.
Now, all of this being said, this doesn't mean you should go to bed hungry; hunger pangs will keep you just as awake as acid reflux. The trick is to find a balance. If you have your heart set on a turkey sandwich before bed, do it a bit earlier--2 hours before you try and go to sleep. The same thing goes for all heavier bedtime snacks. If you are willing to compromise and have something a little lighter, that will be a lot better for your quality of sleep and long term health. Try to always eat dinner at least 2-3 hours before you lay down to give your body time to digest.
Bon Appetite, Sweet Dreams and Happy Holidays!
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