The real reason why you shouldn’t eat before bed

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We’ve all heard this statement before – you shouldn’t eat before bed. 

But why? 

I’ve never really understood the reasons behind this, mostly because I wasn’t given any good ones by the people who told me that. I was given plenty of idiotic ones, though – anything from potentially having bad dreams and food not digesting in your sleep to “getting fat” because of it. 

And when you don’t have an understandable, logical explanation, you start to think about the thing itself as an absurd one.

Myth 1: you’ll gain weight.

Not true. 

Weight and timing of your meals are unrelated (there is of course the whole theory of intermittent fasting, but the correlation is more complicated), what matters is calories in and calories out. 

Obviously, if the meal you’re having is over your daily caloric expenditure and it happens regularly, you will gain weight. 

But just the fact of eating before bed itself won’t do anything in that department.

Myth 2: you’ll have nightmares. 

There is some truth to it, even though it sounds ridiculous. 

We don’t really know the mechanism of dreaming well enough at this point, but it is safe to say, that the chance of having bad dreams increases when you’re not comfortable during sleep. 

It can be an uncomfortable mattress, too high or too low of a temperature in the room, a sickness, hangover, even insects that are bothering you. All of that can potentially affect the content of your dreams. 

Whenever you go to bed full enough to feel uncomfortable – I think we’ve all experienced this – you probably will end up having nightmares; at the very least you have to be ready for that. 

Surely, it’s going to be the case only with extreme overeating, because a regular average-sized meal won’t cause you any discomfort.

While those make some sense in some aspects, they don’t seem to be anywhere close to changing anybody’s mind about that delicious late night snack. If anything, without explanation they would only make you laugh.

But there really IS an actual reason after all. 

See, you normally eat in a vertical position and under the effect of the gravity food sits at the bottom of your stomach along with acid. 

When you go to bed right after finishing your meal, you obviously put yourself in a horizontal position and your stomach contents distribute in a different way. 

This is where the problem comes in. 

The pressure is applied to the closed valve in the top part of your stomach and while one time occasionally won’t do much, regularly overeating before bed is going to cause permanent damage to that valve. 

That will lead to stomach contents leaking back in the esophagus when you’re lying down – known as acid reflux or heartburn. 

And then it only goes downhill from there with symptoms getting worse if you continue the habit of eating right before sleep. Eventually this could cause esophageal cancer. 

We need food to survive and the health of the digestive system is one of the most important things.

If you’re one of those people who can’t fall asleep hungry no matter what, you need to have your last meal of the day four to five hours before going to bed, but make it filling and rich in nutrients. 

That means you can’t have pizza or junk food for dinner. Vegetables, good amount of proteins of your choice and healthy fats would be ideal (not just for dinner – always, but that’s up to you of course). 

That way you will stay full for much longer and when it comes to your bed time, you won’t feel the need to eat again. If you did this and still get the cravings, go for it, nobody can stop you, really. Just make sure you have just a small amount, then it probably won’t cause too much harm.

A habit is a powerful thing. If eating before going to sleep has become your habit already, it’s a problem that needs to be solved

At the end of the day everybody has to make their own choices and decisions but at least now you have one more reason to make the right ones.

 Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor nor a nutritiologist, I’m just sharing my knowledge and personal experiences. As always, I suggest taking everything with a grain of salt and double checking all the info you get.

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