Why is eating right before bed bad for you?
May 31, 2007 12:16 AM   Subscribe

Why is eating right before bed bad for you?
posted by isopropyl to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Some info to start with.
posted by zek at 12:23 AM on May 31, 2007

A cursory googling turns up this link, which seems credible enough and suggests that whether or not you eat before bed has no bearings healthwise.

Although if I remember correctly from biology class, eating before bed can be bad as digestion (as do all other functions) slow down when your body shuts down to sleep. This, combined with the horizontal position most people assume when sleeping, makes the cardiac sphincter more susceptible to opening and causing acid reflux (heartburn).

Anecdotally, I've never had a problem with eating in bed, and being a nightowl who can't work on projects without eating (often simultaneously), I eat large meals before sleeping quite regularly. My weight as well as my health are just fine.
posted by Phire at 12:24 AM on May 31, 2007

Sorry, horrible phrasing tonight.

**Eating before bed can be bad for a good night's rest, since digestion (along with all other bodily functions) slows down when your body shuts down to sleep.
posted by Phire at 12:25 AM on May 31, 2007

Not bad for you, but you'll probably get indigestion, which can then cause nightmares. (Although I seem to recall research disproving this pretty effectively.)

Digestion doesn't require that the upper-half of your body is upright (peristalsis moves the food along your body's pipes), but it's certainly helpful if you're not lying down.

If you have something like a hiatus hernia, avoiding eating near bedtime is a must, or you'll get acid reflux.

Plus your body slows down when you sleep, and completely relaxes, which it can't do if it's churning food.
posted by humblepigeon at 12:41 AM on May 31, 2007

Phire's link is very good and deals with the topic in detail. And the short version of that article is "it's not bad for you". The idea that you shouldn't eat before sleep because it'll make you fatter than if you don't is pseudoscientific folklore. While one can imagine subtle and complex physiological effects of eating right before sleep that might make some sort of difference, this folklore isn't based upon anything remotely so carefully thought out. Rather, it just supposes that, without activity, while sleeping the calories are turned into fat yet ignores the fact that one's daily physical activity will require those calories whatever times of the day eating occurs.,
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 12:57 AM on May 31, 2007

People prone to acid reflux need to avoid a horizontal position immediatly after eating; however, it is not a problem for them to sleep sitting up. I've never that eating right before bed is bad for you -- is this a widespread belief?

Eating in bed now, that's bad. Gets crumbs in the bed.
posted by yohko at 1:12 AM on May 31, 2007

Ethereal Bligh: And the short version of that article is "it's not bad for you"

The short version should be "I don't know, but I don't think it's bad". This is what the article says:

But where does that leave "night eating"? I have been unable to find any study that specifically asked and answered this question: When total calories are kept constant, does eating at night (whether just before bed or in the middle of the night) lead to weight gain? But here's what I did find:

And then he goes on summarize studies on other aspects such as meal frequency.

Within the last few months, I did come across news that eating before sleep did increase relative fat absorption. Of course, it was probably on the CNN news ticker or some such source. I didn't follow it up, and a Pubmed search doesn't show up anything that recent.
posted by Gyan at 1:35 AM on May 31, 2007

What you eat more then the act of eating itself will be what determines if eating before bed is bad or not for you. Slowly digested casesin protein + fats can be beneficial in terms of keeping your body from entering a catabolic state if you exercise a lot. There are a lot of factors, such as exercising in the evening, that can effect how your body processes food while you are sleeping.
posted by Hates_ at 2:45 AM on May 31, 2007

Eating before bedtime is not bad for you. Neither is napping after a large meal.

However, people who pig out before bed may be the sort who eat more than they need to eat -- especially if they are eating again, alone, after they have eaten an earlier meal together with everyone else. Such people will get fat, and being fat is bad for you.
posted by pracowity at 2:59 AM on May 31, 2007

Basically eating before bed isnt in itselfbad for you.
However, eating a large meal before bed could make you feel uncomfortable and less able to sleep.

Snacking before bed that exceeds your daily calorie needs will make you gain weight.

Going for long periods without food - eg. having your lunch at say 1pm and then not having anything else til bedtime at maybe 11pm can cause you to eat more than you need (because you feel really hungry) and thus gain weight
posted by missmagenta at 3:15 AM on May 31, 2007

Depends on what you mean by "bad for you." And unless someone has actual data and research on the subject, I'm tempted to say "we don't know if it's good or bad for you."
posted by gramcracker at 4:59 AM on May 31, 2007

For those who say "Don't", my question is:
How do I keep from waking up in the night with hunger pangs? And once awake, how is getting back to sleep possible, without eating something?
posted by Rash at 10:04 AM on May 31, 2007

It isn't terrible for you, but it IS bad for you. The food in your system will not get digested properly, but rather, your stomach produces the acid to break down the food but you're not active(brain and the body shutting down) to break the nutrient properly. Fat does get stored (bad) and the extra calories and additional salt intake, can make you bloated. In addition, depending on your sleeping posture, the acid remains in your system (since you're laying down as opposed to letting the gravity do its work) which can cause clogging.

I don't know if you've noticed, but after you go to bed with a belly full of stomach, after you get up, you're very hungry...or more so than if you went to bed with an empty stomach.

It's best not to do it in the long run.
posted by icollectpurses at 2:24 PM on May 31, 2007

When I eat a lot before going to bed, I wake up starving. Weird.
posted by 4ster at 5:12 PM on May 31, 2007

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