Why Is It Bad To Eat Before Bed

Written by: Alec Tremaine



Time to read 7 min

Eating before bed is a common habit, but is it good for your health? While a late-night snack might seem harmless, indulging in food before hitting the sheets can lead to several health concerns. From triggering digestive discomfort and disrupting your sleep cycle to increasing the risk of weight gain, eating too close to bedtime presents an array of risks that are worth considering if you're striving for optimal health and well-being.

Downsides of Late-Night Eating

Food on bed late at night

Digestive distress - Eating right before lying down can push food back up from your stomach into your esophagus, causing heartburn or GERD. Spicy, fatty, and acidic foods make this worse.

Poor sleep - A full stomach makes it hard to fall and stay asleep. You miss out on deep, restorative sleep stages. Big meals too close to bedtime disrupt your body's overnight fasting. This can lead to tossing and turning all night. You might not hit the deep sleep stages that help you feel rested. Foods high in fat or protein take longer to digest. If eaten late, they keep your body working instead of sleeping.

Weight gain - Nighttime calories tend to be stored as fat more easily. Poor sleep is linked with increased hunger and obesity over time.

Blood sugar spikes - Late snacking can lead to unstable blood sugar levels, especially problematic for diabetics.

Best Practices for Nighttime Nibbling

  • Allow 2-3 hours between eating and bed for digestion.
  • Pick easy-to-digest options like whole grains, vegetables, and unsweetened yogurt.

  • Portion control is key - eat just enough to curb hunger.

  • Skip desserts, alcohol, coffee, and salty snacks which can disrupt rest.

  • Be consistent with timing and amounts for optimal sleep benefits.

  • Prioritize overall sleep hygiene like limiting light and screens before bedtime.

Foods to Avoid Before Bed

  • Caffeine and alcohol

    • Caffeine and alcohol can sneak into your evening routine, but they might be robbing you of restful sleep. Many people reach for a cup of coffee after dinner or unwind with an alcoholic drink before bed.

    • It seems harmless in the morning, but caffeine is a powerful stimulant that can keep you awake. Even if you do nod off, the quality of your sleep can suffer. Caffeine stays in your system for close to 10-12 hours.

    • Alcohol consumption close to bedtime isn't much better. You may think it helps you relax and fall asleep faster, but it actually disrupts REM sleep—the deep sleep stage where your body recovers the most.

    • A glass of wine or a beer might lead to more wake-ups during the night, making it hard to maintain deep sleep.

    • Instead of reaching for coffee or alcoholic beverages later in the day, consider alternatives like herbal tea or warm milk, which support better sleeping patterns. Cutting back on caffeine and alcohol, especially later in the day, can help improve both the quantity and quality of your shut-eye time!

  • High-carbohydrate meals

    • Eating high-carbohydrate meals late at night might mess with your sleep. Foods like pasta, bread, and rice can shake up your blood sugar levels. Right after eating them, you may feel a burst of energy.

    • But later on, as your body works hard to process all the carbs, you might wake up feeling hot or restless.

    • Scientists say that what time you eat these foods also affects how well you lose weight. It's better to eat your carb-heavy meals early in the day. That way, your body has time to use that energy before you hit the sack.

    • If carbs are calling your name at night, try something lighter instead — it could help you snooze more soundly!

When Snacking Before Bed May Help

healthy foods near bed
  • Hunger pangs - A healthy snack can prevent rumbling that disturbs sleep. Choose filling options like tart cherry juice.
  • Blood sugar dips - Some diabetics need carbs before bed to prevent dangerously low blood sugar overnight.

  • Better zzz's - Tryptophan-rich foods like dairy, nuts, or turkey may boost serotonin and melatonin to aid sleep.

  • Snacking on a Slumber Gummy - shown to increase sleep duration by 72+ minutes in a 3rd party sleep study.

The Benefits of Eating Before Bed

No matter how hungry you are before, keep this mean very small! While much of the buzz around bedtime eating focuses on potential downsides, some benefits should be considered.

Stabilization of Blood Sugar

  • Eating a small, balanced snack before bed can help maintain steady blood sugar levels overnight. Stable blood sugar prevents dips that may wake you up feeling hungry or shaky. People with diabetes often experience low blood sugar at night so a pre-sleep snack might be crucial for them.

  • A stable glucose level supports uninterrupted sleep and better recovery. It ensures the body has enough energy to repair and rejuvenate during the night. After discussing blood sugar stabilization, it's important to consider how hunger pangs could affect your sleep too.

Prevents Hunger Pangs That Could Keep You Awake

  • No one likes to lie in bed with a growling stomach. Hunger pangs can distract you from falling asleep and even wake you up at night.

  • Choosing the right foods is important for undisturbed sleep. Foods high in tryptophan, like turkey or bananas, support sleep because they help produce melatonin, the sleep hormone. On the other hand, heavy or high-fat meals make digestion work overtime and may lead to discomfort and restlessness.

  • Stable blood sugar levels also contribute to better sleep cycles. Eating too close to bedtime could lead to changes in blood sugar during the night. A small snack can prevent sudden drops in blood sugar, known as hypoglycemia, which can cause nighttime disturbances.

Foods to eat before bed

Although a fasted state is the best for quality sleep, there are a few food options that you can eat before bed, as long as you keep it light. Making the best nutritional choices involves understanding which foods help promote sleep and which ones to avoid.

  • Complex Carbohydrates: Options like oatmeal or brown rice are beneficial because they are digested slowly, providing a steady release of glucose into the bloodstream. This gradual process helps maintain stable blood sugar levels through the night, which is particularly crucial for those with type 1 or type II diabetes who may experience hyperglycemia otherwise.

  • Fruits High in Fiber and Vitamin C: Kiwi and cherries are excellent choices. With its high vitamin C content, kiwi has been linked to improved sleep patterns in peer-reviewed studies. Cherries, meanwhile, naturally contain melatonin, the hormone that regulates our circadian rhythm.

  • Lean Proteins: These proteins consist of amino acids like tryptophan, converted into serotonin and melatonin within the body – neurotransmitters essential for good sleep. Opting for turkey slices or a small portion of fatty fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids will not only satisfy your hunger but also aid in sleeping better.

  • Dairy Products: A glass of milk or a small serving of yogurt can be helpful as they contain both tryptophan and calcium. Calcium helps the brain use the tryptophan found in dairy to manufacture melatonin; thus, dairy products may serve as an effective nighttime snack.

  • Nuts and Seeds: Almonds and walnuts are among the best choices for late-night snacking due to their magnesium content - a mineral known to improve sleep quality by decreasing cortisol levels, which is a stress hormone that can disrupt sleep.

  • Vegetables With Dip: Raw vegetables such as carrots or cucumber with hummus provide fiber and nutrients without causing bloating or discomfort during the night.

The Takeaway

With care, a small snack before bed may help some people. But eating too much too late disrupts sleep and health. For best practices, if you are eating a larger meal, enjoy it at least 2-3 hours before bed. Sweet dreams!


1. Can eating before bed lead to sleep problems?

Yes, eating right before sleeping can cause issues like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and insomnia. These disrupt your sleep by causing discomfort or making it hard to stay asleep.

2. Does having a snack at night make certain health problems worse?

Eating late may worsen conditions such as type II diabetes and heart disease. This is because it can mess with insulin sensitivity and raise blood sugar levels during the night.

3. Are there foods or drinks I should avoid before bedtime?

You should skip caffeinated beverages, energy drinks, high-fat diets, and alcoholic drinks close to bedtime—they can interrupt your sleep cycle or keep you from falling into a deep sleep.

4. How does late-night snacking affect my body's clock?

Your circadian rhythm, or body clock, might get out of sync if you eat too close to when you go to bed. It expects no food intake during the night which affects how well you rest.

5. Is there a link between when I eat and gaining weight?

Surveys suggest that eating late may be tied to weight gain because of changes in metabolism at night—science calls this time-restricted feeding for better weight management.

6. Should people with certain medical conditions avoid eating later in the day?

People who have sleep apnea—a disorder where you stop breathing briefly while asleep—shouldn't eat just before bed; also, those with nocturia might wake up often needing to use the bathroom.