Whether it is eating a full meal close to bed time or a light snack at night, eating late at night can have adverse effect on the body. Eating late at night alters the body’s natural rhythm and can affect the hormones, digestion, sleeping pattern and even memory. Eating late at night also increases the risk of developing lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, heart issues and unintentional weight gain.
7 Reasons Why Eating Late at Night is Bad For You
The most common bad effects of eating late at night include:
Eating late at night makes it difficult to lose weight. Weight loss therapy not only depends on the calorie intake and distribution of macronutrient, but it also depends on the timing of food intake. Snacking at night causes intake of calories which is stored as fat in the body and thus more difficult to get rid of.
Increased Risk of Metabolic Diseases:
Eating late at night causes decrease in rate of carbohydrate metabolism, decreased resting energy expenditure, decrease in glucose tolerance, and alteration in cortisol concentration. This in turn affects the normal metabolic health and increases the risk of developing metabolic diseases such as diabetes. It also increases the risk of having heart attack and other heart issues.
Altered Memory and Concentration Levels:
Late night eating affects the brain health too. Eating at odd hours affects the normal circadian system of the body which in turn lowers the brain’s ability to learn, concentrate and memorize. It affects the brain and learning behaviour.
Eating late at night can affect the quantity and quality of sleep. It alters the normal sleeping pattern and can cause lead to bizarre dreaming while sleeping. Spicy food and dairy items has been linked to disturbed dreams.
Increased Risk of Acid Reflux:
Eating a heavy meal before sleeping or leaving less than 4 hours between the last meal and bedtime can lead to acid reflux or heart burn. This is mainly because of opening of the lower sphincter of the oesophagus, which causes backward flow of acid from the stomach into the mouth. Leaving adequate gap between dinner and bedtime provides ample time for the stomach to clear and remain acid free while sleeping.
Snacking late at night repeatedly without actually being hungry has been associated with deeper health issues such as night eating syndrome and binge eating disorder. This could also be related to psychological issues such as depression, stress, loneliness etc.
Excessive Hunger the Next Day:
Eating late at night can lead to a feeling of excessive hunger the next day. This is likely due to altered production of hunger hormone called ‘ghrelin’. This can actually lead to weight gain as well.
Ways to Control Eating Late at Night
It is advised to eat a balanced meal between 7:00 to 7:30 pm. A balanced meal will keep you satiated and provide better control over mid night craving until bedtime.
Avoid stocking junk food at home. If there are no junk food at home, the chances of mid night snacking will be drastically reduced. Replacing junk food with healthy alternative such as fruits, dry fruits, oatmeal crackers etc. is better than eating unhealthy food at night before sleeping.
Sometimes the body may mistake feeling thirsty with feeling hungry. It is therefore important to understand if the body need water to quench the thirst instead of eating snacks first.
Stress management can also help us in reducing anxiety and other psychological issues. Relaxing and calming bed time routine can help is minimizing stress and the urges to binge eat.
Despite all the measures, if the body stills craves for a snack at night, one can consider eating the following instead of an unhealthy snack.
- A piece of grilled chicken
- Half an apple
- Have a banana with a teaspoon of peanut butter
- A few crackers with tablespoon of hummus
- Hard-boiled egg
- Handful of nuts and dry fruits
- Mashed avocado on toast
- Small bowl of fruits with cottage cheese.
- Medical News Today – “What are the Effects of Eating Late at Night?” (https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322912)
- Healthline – “Is Late-Night Eating Bad for Health?” (https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/late-night-eating)
- Cleveland Clinic – “Is Eating Late at Night Bad for Your Health?” (https://health.clevelandclinic.org/is-eating-late-at-night-bad-for-your-health/)
- WebMD – “The Truth About Late-Night Snacking” (https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/truth-about-late-night-snacks)
- Harvard Health Publishing – “Why Eating Too Late at Night May Be a Weight Gain Risk” (https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/why-eating-too-late-at-night-may-be-a-weight-gain-risk-2017080212169)