The first rule of late-night feeding: don’t eat too much. While experts say eating before bed doesn’t play a major role in weight-gain, that pre-slumber snack could disturb your sleep.
“I tell people not to eat anything 3 hours before bedtime if they can avoid it, especially a big meal,” says Joseph Murray, M.D., a gastroenterologist with Mayo Clinic.
Murray says it takes about 3 hours for a normal person’s stomach to break down food and pass the partially digested results to the lower intestine. Climb into bed before your stomach has done its thing, and sleep can interrupt that process.
“Instead of grinding up food efficiently, the stomach can go into what we sometimes call its ‘housekeeping function,’ where it just tries to sweep everything away,” Murray explains. “It will dump solid or undigested food into the small intestine, which will have problems breaking down and absorbing everything.”
Murray says you may not be aware of any of this. But because your digestive system is still working its way through what you’ve eaten, your sleep may be disrupted — even if you don’t wake up.
“You might feel a little groggy or tired the next day,” he says, “but you may not attribute that to what you ate the night before.” He says a small snack before bed is acceptable. But some foods are more likely to give you problems than others. Here’s what to reach for — and what to avoid.