There are probably more myths and misguided ideas about eating before bed than there are about eating before jumping in the swimming pool. Well, technically there was always just one crazy myth about eating before swimming, but it was pretty ubiquitous, and the idea of whether or not eating before going to sleep is good or bad for you may be on the same level.
There are multiple conflicting beliefs behind this one with studies to support either side, depending on who you choose to listen to. So is there a definitive, once and for all answer for this one?
"It's really more about what you're eating versus when," says Summer Sanders, raw-food chef, holistic health coach, and author of Raw + Radiant. "If you are eating a large dinner right before bed, this isn't ideal and can lead to weight gain and negatively affect your cardiovascular health, however, eating small nutrient-dense foods or a single macronutrient food has been shown to actually help your body. Having a small clean, low-energy food before bed can help regulate blood sugar levels that, for some, drop through the night and leave you waking up hangry in the morning. I always suggest trying a lean protein, fresh fruit, vegetable, handful of nuts, or a serving of a whole grain."
Sanders also says that women, in particular, should be in the habit of eating every three to four hours through the day. This habit and belief enforce the idea that eating a lean snack before bedtime is actually an important thing, as it keeps your metabolism working as close to that same rate with evenly spaced out meals throughout the day. By the time you wake up in the morning, your body has gone anywhere from six to eight hours without food and is now likely in need of replenished nutrients when you wake up. Keeping your last “large” meal outside of three to four hours before bed is something to keep in mind, also giving another reason to have that small, nutrient-dense snack shortly before going to sleep. "Generally speaking, your metabolism drops 10% to 15% during the night and can even reach a 35% decrease during your deepest sleep cycles.,” Sanders adds.
Sanders offers these four immediate impacts/benefits from a pre-bedtime snack:
-Morning blood sugar drops are less likely, which sets you up for a steady morning mood and energy.
-You sleep better with a comfortably satiated stomach, leaving you less likely to wake up hungry in the middle of the night.
-For active people on any kind of exercise or strength and conditioning program actually benefit from a small protein snack before bed, as protein helps in muscle recovery and growth with a steady flow of nutrients through the night.
-Your body is still hard at work while you sleep, believe it or not. This means nutrient-dense food is actually useful through the night.
So, is eating before bedtime the definitive, once and for all way to go? It can be. Remembering the golden rule that what you eat is actually the most important part of the equation here will probably be the biggest piece of the puzzle. So long as you’re not jumping for late night cookies or a full, hearty meal at the last minute, eating before bed actually has some benefits.