Eating late at night isn’t good for our health, sorry if you’re someone who loves a snack at bedtime. There are a whole host of reasons why we shouldn’t eat late in the evening. Read to the end to see my recommendations on timings for food.
So why shouldn’t we eat before bedtime? Does the time of day we eat affect our digestion?
Here’s my top five reasons why we shouldn’t eat late at night.
1. Eating late worsens our blood sugar responses
People who eat later before bed have been shown to have worse blood sugar levels the next morning after eating their breakfast.
When we eat close to bedtime we tend to put on more weight, and have worse markers for insulin. Poor insulin management can be implicated in diabetes, cholesterol and weight gain which are all linked with ongoing chronic health conditions such as heart disease.
2. Eating at night can affect your memory and concentration
Eating at erratic times through the day can affect our memory and learning. The hippocampus, which controls these functions takes its lead from the metabolic state, so if there is food around then our body rhythms are disrupted. In studies on mice, the mice were less able to remember simple tasks if they were fed outside of their circadian rhythms.
3. Your blood pressure goes up when you eat late at night
When we sleep normally our blood pressure goes down, and when it fails to drop you could be at a higher risk of a heart attack. A study in 2016 look at whether timing of meals affected blood pressure and found eating within two hours of going to sleep caused 24.2 per cent to suffer from high blood pressure which did not drop sufficiently overnight.
4. Eating late can increase reflux
If you eat a big meal and then lie down you can sometimes force the valve at the top of the stomach to open and food (and stomach acid) can spill into the oesophagus. Also, the foods we tend to eat at night are generally more likely to cause reflux, like crisps, cakes, chips or chocolate. These foods can also lead to additional weight gain.
5. If you eat late at night you might eat more the next day
When we eat our insulin levels go up, and as well as managing our blood sugars, insulin also produces one of our hunger hormones, ghrelin. When we have a bigger rest from digesting at night, say 12 hours, then our ghrelin levels are reset, but if we have less than 12 hours we can feel more hungry the next day.
To make the most of the fasting time until morning, aim to leave 12 hours between your dinner and your breakfast. After all, to have a break-fast you need to have a bit of a fast to break! Aim to finish your meal 3 hours before bedtime, so around 7pm. This will allow you to go to bed by 10 or 11pm to get your 8 hours sleep opportunity before you wake up.
My Gut Reset programme contains 12 hours of fasting each day for one week – check out the next Gut Reset start dates to join us.