Getting a good night’s sleep takes effort because of the endless new Netflix documentaries and late-night food delivery at our fingertips. Going to bed stuffed is a major sleep saboteur as anyone who’s found themselves standing in front of the fridge at 11 o’clock knows.
Erin Stokes, a naturopathic doctor and medical director at MegaFood affirms: “Eating too close to bedtime can certainly disrupt sleep,”. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine has linked eating at night with poorer sleep quality, especially in women.
To sleep well, you’ll want to reconsider that late-night snack — and even how long before bed you eat dinner.
There are a number of ways going to bed with a full belly interferes with your bedtime routine.
You’ll experience indigestion throughout the night if you eat just before sleeping
First, the digestive system slows at night, according to Candice Seti, PsyD, “The Insomnia Therapist.” You’ll likely experience indigestion throughout the night if you hit the hay with a full stomach. That can leave you uncomfortable and staring at the ceiling.
This is especially problematic for people with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), adds naturopathic doctor Kasey Nichols. GERD patients may experience heartburn and other symptoms, like coughing, which results from stomach acid creeping up the esophagus if food doesn’t have time to pass from the stomach into the intestines before bedtime.
Amita Fotedar, PhD, a medical advisor for Sleep Standards adds: “Eating right before bed can also cause blood sugar levels to spike (giving you a surge of energy) right when you want to unwind and sink into restorative sleep.”
Eating at night can also interfere with your production of human growth hormone and melatonin, two hormones that help facilitate quality sleep, Fotedar fills up.
What you eat impacts your sleep, too
Late meals are not the only ones that influence the quality of our sleep. What you eat impacts your sleep, too. While certain foods and nutrients support a good night’s rest, others sabotage the process.
Sleep-Friendly Foods: We should eat to feel satiated, but not overly full, says Stokes. You can eat a small amount of high-quality fat (like a few slices of avocado) or a small amount of high-quality protein (like a serving of fish).
Since the neurotransmitter serotonin promotes a good rest, Seti recommends incorporating serotonin-boosting foods, like whole grains (oats or barley) and sweet potatoes.
Not-So-Sleep-Friendly Foods: Make sure to avoid foods high in sugar and refined carbs, suggests Seti. Foods to avoid: packaged snack foods, like crackers, pretzels and cookies, are off the table.
Other foods to avoid — “Avoid acidic, spicy foods, as well as chocolate and coffee late at night,” says Nichols.
Drinks to avoid: alcohol.
“Alcohol is known to suppress melatonin release from the pineal gland,” says Nichols. The result: You wake up feeling groggy and unrested after hitting the hay with alcohol in your system.
Fotedar recommends you stop consuming alcohol at least five hours before bed in order to minimize alcohol’s impact on your sleep as much as possible.
Even water can disrupt our sleep
“Having small sips of water in the evening after dinner is fine, but you want to complete the bulk of your water intake at least an hour before bedtime,” affirms Stokes.
It is recommended to limit fluid intake as much as possible during the last 90 minutes before bed — and stopping at the bathroom before going to bed.