Sleeping After Eating – How Long Should You Wait Before Bed?

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I am sure you have heard before that sleeping after eating is bad, but why is that? Some say it will give you nightmares or disrupt your slumber in general. Others say it will cause you to add unnecessary pounds since your body doesn’t have time to burn off the calories consumed before bed. With all the information available, it’s hard to sort through it and find out what is actually true, and what is a myth.

So, what is the truth? How does eating before going to bed affect your health? What does it do to your body, your metabolism and overall quality of sleep? How long do you really need to wait after eating before dozing off? And why? Let us help you find out!

Sleeping after eating will cause you to gain weight: myth or fact?

We have all heard someone say that eating right before bed leads to weight gain. In fact, you have probably heard it repeatedly that you think it is a fact. Well, guess what? It is a myth! Sleep doesn’t make you add pounds, food does. Excessive caloric intake leads to weight gain, regardless of what time you eat. A calorie consumed during the day is equal to a calorie consumed at night. Too much food and not enough energy expenditure leads to additional pounds.

The trick to not gain weight and be healthy is to balance your food intake with your energy output. It doesn’t matter what time you eat, day or night. It only matters how much you eat compared to the amount of energy you use. This is where the common health misconception comes into play. It is easy to come to the conclusion that if you eat and then go to bed, you do not have any chance to burn off the calories. The truth is it does not have to been done in that particular order.

It is possible for your body to burn the appropriate amount of energy before you chew on the calories! As long as you use a proportionate amount of energy compared to the amount eaten, going to bed will not lead you to add some pounds.

Watch what you eat.

The problem with this comes from people’s tendency to eat before bed after they already ate a full dinner. Often the food is not healthy. It’s simply extra calories that exceed a typical daily intake, which can lead to additional pounds. People often choose foods high in fat like ice cream or potato chips because they are easy and require no preparation. This can increase your calorie intake exponentially if you are not careful.

Wait! Does this mean you have to deprive yourself of a late-night snack? No. Instead, help yourself and eat foods that are healthy, easily digestible and low in calories. If eaten in moderation, different foods like whole grains with a little milk, nuts, peanut butter, yogurt, and fruit, especially ones high in antioxidants like blueberries can all make an easy alternative. These will not affect your sleep or weight in a negative manner.

Actually, lack of sleep can cause weight gain.

sleep weight gain

Surprisingly, a few studies recently have shown that people who do not get enough rest in general, suffer from sleep apnea, or insomnia may be more prone to increase in pounds. Not enough sleep can induce lower release levels of the hormone leptin which can make you feel hungry. This isn’t good if you want to avoid having to buy a mattress for heavy people!

Adversely, higher levels of leptin provide you with a feeling of fullness. Lack of sleep may also increase the release of the hormone grehlin which can also make you feel hungry. This suggests proper sleep promotes a healthy lifestyle which in turn facilitates weight loss when paired with healthy and proportionate dietary choices.

Remember, what you eat during the day or at night doesn’t matter, only the amount compared to your activity level as far as adding on pounds is considered. However, going to bed after a meal does not help. It can induce other side effects that may be bad for your health, so it is not routinely recommended.

Eating before bed can affect your health negatively.

Some people may experience mild to severe side effects from lying down after eating. Our digestive system works best while we remain in an upright position so lying down can bring about undue strain and uneven absorption of nutrition and food.

Three side effects that can be caused by lying down with a full stomach:

  • Heartburn: Lying down can increase or induce heartburn for some people. It is when excess stomach acid travels into your throat or chest, so it makes sense that lying down would promote it spreading. Heartburn can be painful and can cause frequent burping, bad breath, and a bad flavor in your mouth.
  • Acid reflux: Gastroesophageal reflux disease, also known as acid reflux, is a more severe form of heartburn. When the valve between your stomach and esophagus doesn’t close properly, it can bring about the spread of stomach acid to your throat producing a severe burning sensation. Further treatment is required to prevent complications if this occurs.
  • Stroke: A study conducted at the University of Ioannina Medical School in Greece suggests that snoozing after eating may increase your risk of stroke. In their study, people who waited the longest to sleep after eating were less prone to get strokes. However, this was a limited study with only 500 participants, half of which had a family history that included stroke. So, before you get too worried, just remember this is an extreme and rare side effect and the connections are still being made between dozing off, eating, and having a stroke.

What is the recommended amount of time to wait after a meal before lying down?

Now that we have dispelled the myth of weight gain and have covered the possible negative side effects on your health, you are probably wondering how to avoid them. What is the best way to ensure you get the best possible rest for yourself and overall wellbeing?

Medical professionals recommend waiting at least two hours before you consider lying down after you eat. Many recommend waiting as long as four hours to facilitate the best possible conditions for digestion. Remaining in an upright position is the best way to achieve this.

It is common to feel sleepy after a large meal because your body is working hard to digest what you have eaten. Blood is redirected from all of your organs, including the brain, to aid in the digestive system. The lack of blood in the brain can lead to feeling sleepy or drowsy. However, it is best to resist the urge to sleep and remain in an upright position for a minimum of two hours.

Are there other activities to avoid after eating?

Some of these may shock you but, yes, there are other activities you should avoid.

  • Avoid smoking cigarettes: Multiple studies have shown that smoking one cigarette immediately after a snack can be the same as smoking ten cigarettes.
  • Avoid drinking tea: The acidity of tea can disrupt the digestive system by slowing it down. It can also harden proteins and prevent the proper absorption of iron. It is best not to drink tea for at least an hour before or after a meal.
  • Avoid taking a bath or shower: After a meal, it is recommended you wait at least 40 minutes before bathing. This is because it increases the blood flow to your hands and extremities instead of focusing on digestion.
  • Avoid fruit: Fruit can help make you feel bloated. It is best to eat foods like apples, pears or bananas at least an hour before or after a meal.

In conclusion, do not beat yourself up for snacking late or even for having dinner late. Eating during the day or night doesn’t matter. It is ok to eat late, especially if you are expending a proportionate amount of energy compared to what you consume. Snoozing does not make you add pounds, excessive food does. This is true especially with foods that are not healthy like ice cream or chips. However, it is best to wait at least two hours before lying down at night. This is to aid your body with digestion and have a more restful and rewarding slumber.

But don’t forget that where you lay also affects the quality of sleep so let us help you find a mattress that’s just what you need.

Additional Resources

Emily Alexander
Emily Alexander

Emily Melynn Alexander was born on the east coast of the USA but has called Colorado home since 2000. She has a degree in English and Political Science from Metropolitan State University of Denver. She enjoys sleeping in locations all around the world.

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