Are you sometimes guilty of eating late at night? You’re not alone. I still struggle with it.
Eating late at night is a common habit in many parts of the world.
Do you agree?
If you do, please leave a “yes” in the comment section below.
If you don’t, type “no”.
Nonetheless, it’s true. And this isn’t always because we love to eat late at night.
Rather, we live in a busy and fast-paced society where everyone is hurrying to have a life and make ends meet.
In fact, residents of metropolitan cities like Lagos, Kaduna, and Ibadan are known to leave their homes very early and get home pretty late.
How does this busy lifestyle and late dinner affect your sleeping patterns?
This is what this post focuses on. Keep reading to learn more.
How the Eating Late at Night Habit Disturbs Your Sleep
What makes eating late at night bad for the health?
Studies have discovered that eating late at night causes diabetes, weight gain, some heart disease, acid reflux, and poor sleep quality among others.
Among these downsides of eating late-night snacks, poor sleep quality appears to be a rising problem. Let’s consider what happens to your body when you eat late at night.
What Role Does Your Circadian Rhythm Play?
Late night eating habits include cooking at past 7 PM and/or eating after this time. Usually, the body’s metabolism is higher during the day than at night.
Again, our bodies follow a circadian rhythm which is set around the activities we engage in on a daily basis.
For instance, if you wake up at 5 AM daily, your body gets used to this wakeup time and will always get alert at this time.
If you drink a glass of water and take a walk before 7 AM every day, your body wouldn’t do otherwise on any day.
Now, this rhythm also applies to how and when we eat. When you eat your breakfast at 7 AM on Monday, and maintain the same timing on Tuesday, Wednesday, and every other day of the week, your body gets used to the pattern.
However, the moment you eat before or after this time, your body notices a change and gets out of rhythm.
The Sleep Interruption Problem
You’re probably wondering:
How does this affect sleep? Let me tell you this:
We need sleep because our body organs need to rest. Sleep is more than closing your eyes and expecting that you’ll be undisturbed for the next 6-8 hours.
When you lie down to rest, your brain refreshes itself, your body repairs tired muscles, and your digestive organs rest. Ideally, your digestive system should rest for at least 12 hours.
So let’s do the math:
If you have your breakfast at 7 AM, when should you have had the last meal?
7 PM right?
Your digestive system needs to retire from its work for at least 12 hours in order for it to work efficiently throughout your lifetime.
To clarify, you regard sleep as an opportunity to rest after a long day of work and at least 7 hours answering calls, reading emails, and contributing/making key decisions in meetings.
The same thing applies to your digestive system and your sleeping pattern. Eating late at night is the reason many people complain of migraines, cravings, and other health disturbances.
What really happens is that when you eat late, your digestive system has to work past its ideal busy time. You stretch it beyond its ideal capacity and it continues its work while you’re asleep.
What Happened the Last Time I Had to Eat Late at Night?
Here’s my story in this regard:
Earlier this year, on one of the evenings, I had difficulty deciding on what I wanted to prepare for dinner. I couldn’t make up my mind until it was almost 9 PM (interesting, right?).
Well, then I concluded that noodles with vegetables and egg was going to have to do. Cooking it didn’t take much time but that didn’t affect the fact that hubby and I had that meal at almost 10 PM.
Long story short, sleeping that night was a huge dilemma. As I lay in bed, I could feel the food literally moving back up. It felt so hard and tight, and I wasn’t comfortable one bit.
It was a tough night. Sleeping became really difficult. And of course, I woke up earlier than expected but more tired than ever. My head hurt so badly and my eyes had this pinching, piercing sting to them.
I felt super hungry. You would think I didn’t eat the previous night. I couldn’t wait to prepare breakfast and fill my tummy again.
What’s my point?
So many things go wrong when we don’t eat early enough. For some people, eating late at night isn’t a habit. It just happens as a result of their work or other uncontrollable events.
Nevertheless, you can make the right choices starting today.
What Does Science Say About Eating Late at Night?
According to Telegraph, eating late at night causes weight gain, memory problems, bad dreams, increased hunger, and a higher risk of heart attack among other conditions.
Healthline.com also discussed the relationship between the circadian rhythm and eating late at night. Their article talked about how eating late causes you to eat more and gain more calories.
However, they suggest that you can take beverages when you feel hungry after your dinner time.
Verywellhealth goes even further to explain in detail how eating too late affects your sleep. They provide example of foods which can cause heartburn or lead to acid reflux (the return of gastrointestinal acid to the throat).
What Does Ellen G. White Say About Late Night Meals and Your Sleep?
Ellen G. White in Counsels on Diet and Foods says, “The stomach, after rest and sleep, was better able to take care of a substantial meal than when wearied with work.”
Another interesting part says, “Many indulge in the pernicious habit of eating just before sleeping hours. They may have taken three regular meals; yet, because they feel a sense of faintness, as though hungry, will eat a lunch or fourth meal.”
“By indulging in this wrong practice, it has become a habit, and they feel as though they could not sleep without taking a lunch before retiring. In many cases, the cause of this faintness is because the digestive organs have been already too severely taxed through the day in disposing of unwholesome food forced upon the stomach too frequently, and in too great quantities.”
Ellen White furthers add in this chapter that people ignore the signals their stomach sends to them and they eat more food than appropriate. What then happens to their sleep?
“The sleep of such is generally disturbed with unpleasant dreams, and in the morning they awake refreshed. There is a sense of languor and loss of appetite. A lack of energy is felt throughout the entire system. In a short time, the digestive organs are worked out, for they have had no time to rest.”
What does this tell you?
When you give your stomach more work than it can normally do, it becomes enfeebled. Preventing your digestive system from taking a break, in essence, results in faintness (that pretends as hunger) which you might interpret as hunger pangs.
In the real sense, what you really should be doing is avoiding frequent eating or eating a late dinner.
What’s the Possible Way Out?
If you realize that you’re guilty of this “health crime,” then you’re well on the way to discovering the solution.
- Avoid cooking/eating at any time past 7 PM
- If you have to eat late, spend some time awake
- Stick to the rule of staying out of bed for 3-5 hours (when your food should have digested)
- If you get hungry, eat some fruits or drink other light healthy drinks
- Whenever you experience any stomach upset or abdominal pain, don’t ignore it. Check your meal frequency.
The Bottom Line
Eating late at night is something that might not go away easily.
But with the information in this post, you can learn to accept that it’s not healthy for you. And you can become intentional about when you eat and what you eat.
The best part of this post was showing the agreement in ideas of top health websites and Ellen G. White.
Take the right steps to stop eating late at night and you’ll see your sleep improve.
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