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How Holiday Meals Affect Your Sleep

There are a lot of myths surrounding eating at night. Couple that with the late meals and sweet treats that come with the holiday season, it’s hard to distinguish fact from fiction when it comes to eating and sleep.

We’ve put together some of the biggest myths about sleeping after eating or eating late and found research that proves or disproves these theories. Now you can enjoy the holidays (and all that they have to offer) and still sleep well too!

Does Eating Before Sleeping Make You Gain Weight?

According to the Livestrong Foundation[1], this is completely false. Eating more calories than you are burning makes you gain weight, the time of day doesn’t have an impact at all.

They did mention that usually when people want to eat right before bed they tend to choose high-calorie and sugar-filled foods. We have less willpower by the end of the day so it’s quite common to reach for the unhealthy snacks. Those will cause weight gain at the time that they are eaten.

Livestrong recommends small healthy snacks before bed like oatmeal or a banana with almond butter.

Can Eating a Big Meal Right Before Bed Interrupt Sleep?

There may be a few nights this holiday season where you are up late with friends and family eating delicious food. Will this impact your sleep?

According to Livestrong[2] sleeping after a big meal can create a bloated feeling in your stomach and keep you from falling asleep. On top of that the digestive problems can wake you up later in the night too. In particular, they warn against spicy and fatty foods that trigger heartburn.

The National Sleep Foundation[3] has stated that relaxing foods contain carbohydrates and protein.

Is Snacking Before Bed Bad For Your Health and Sleep?

What if on the other hand, you’ve had a huge holiday lunch and now that it’s evening you just want to snack before you head to sleep?

Leslie Beck, a dietitian and health columnist for the Globe and Mail, recommends eating your last big meal two to three hours before you head to sleep[4]. If it’s been four to five hours since your last big meal, she recommends eating a small snack before bed as it can help you sleep. Beck says to focus on snacks that digest quickly, like fruit.

Does Sleeping Right After You Eat Ruin Your Digestion?

According to nutritionist Kimberly Snyder, if you want your digestion to go smoothly you need to wait a little bit before heading to bed right after you eat[5].

“When you lie on your back or side after you’ve eaten, your digestive juices have a better chance of creeping back up into our esophagus and causing heartburn. When you stay awake and upright, the digestive juices are more likely to stay where they need to be and efficiently break down your food.”

When you sleep your digestive system is already slowing down, so adding the heavy meal in will cause bloating and discomfort. Snyder recommends a little bit of time before going to sleep where you can remain upright to promote optimal digestion.

To sum it all up one last time:

  • Eating before bed does not cause you to gain weight.
  • Eating a big meal before bed can make it harder to sleep, either have a smaller meal or wait before sleeping.
  • Snacking before bed won’t ruin your sleep so long as your snacks are easy to digest.
  • Sleeping right after you eat is not good for your digestion – stay upright for a little bit before heading to bed.

Hopefully we helped clear up some of those sleeping and eating myths for you so that you can enjoy a healthy and restful holiday season!