How long should I wait between eating and going to bed to sleep? Is it bad to go to bed too soon after eating? Whether it’s a midnight snack or simply your late dinner after a busy day, learn how much time should elapse before bedtime after eating and what symptoms you might experience, including insomnia and nighttime heartburn, if you don’t wait long enough before going to sleep.
"Caffeine blocks adenosine, a chemical that makes you feel sleepy, and when consumed too close to bedtime may contribute to insomnia."
As a rule of thumb, nutritionists will tell you to wait two to three hours between your last meal and bedtime. This allows digestion to occur and the contents of your stomach to move into your small intestine. This may prevent problems like heartburn at night and even insomnia. By allowing this delay, this will reduce the likelihood of heartburn symptoms. Lying down may cause the contents of the stomach to reflux into the esophagus, leading to heartburn or GERD symptoms. This is more likely to occur if the stomach has not fully emptied by bedtime. The long-help belief that a two-hour interval between a meal and sleep can improve blood sugar control has been largely disproven.
"Alcohol in a nightcap can make us feel sleepy initially, but it wears off quickly and can actually fragment and disrupt sleep."
There are some foods that contain substances that may enhance sleep. For example, turkey and pork chops contain high levels of tryptophan, a substance that is metabolized by our bodies into serotonin and melatonin, sleep-inducing agents. In addition, some foods like cherries contain small amounts of melatonin. Other foods can be comforting, like a warm glass of milk, and this may help us to relax and mentally prepare for sleep as part of a regular bedtime routine. Alcohol in a nightcap can make us feel sleepy initially, but it wears off quickly and can actually fragment and disrupt sleep. It may also exacerbate sleep apnea by relaxing the muscles of the airway. There is also evidence that the timing of food consumption can affect sleep. It may prompt the release of insulin, which can play a role in the shifting of the circadian rhythm. Food can also signal wakefulness in the brain and interfere with your ability to fall asleep.
"A light snack before bedtime is not problematic. A study in the journal Nutrients concluded that a small snack (150 calories or less) might even be beneficial for muscle protein synthesis and cardio metabolic health."
Eating close to bedtime may actually harm your sleep. This may be especially true if you eat too much or eat certain foods that induce heartburn. Lying down may cause reflux symptoms that cause burning chest discomfort and a bitter taste in your mouth. Some people describe this as "burping up food." Spicy and acidic foods like citrus and tomatoes may be especially bothersome. Alcohol, chocolate, and even peppermint may also worsen heartburn and reflux. In addition, caffeine in coffee, tea, soda pop, energy drinks, and chocolate should be avoided. Caffeine blocks adenosine, a chemical that makes you feel sleepy, and when consumed too close to bedtime may contribute to insomnia. It can also increase the need to urinate at night. Not everyone is sensitive to caffeine, but if you are, consider restricting caffeine consumption to earlier in the day.