Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Why Eating in the Middle of the Night is Bad for You

Why eating in the middle of the night is bad for you 

Hitting the fridge in the middle of the night can harm digestive health

BMC Medicine finds that poor sleep quality and uneven eating habits are significant risk factors for Gastroesophageal reflux (or GERD) disease. GERD is a digestive disorder that often causes indigestion and heartburn, brought on by problems with stomach content reflux. On the other hand, some cases of GERD can be relieved through a healthy diet and healthy lifestyle changes. Over 19 000 adults were studied in Japan. Out of 25 different lifestyle factors, sleep quality and irregular eating habits were the two lifestyle factors that had the biggest impact on whether these people had GERD disease or not.

Metabolism (the rate at which your body digests food and turns it into energy) is the link between midnight snacking and digestive health. Live Strong explains that your metabolism is slower in the middle of the night because your body is gearing down to sleep. When your metabolism is lower, your body struggles to digest food. This is the most likely reason why eating in the middle of your slumber hurts digestion. When your body needs to sleep, it slows down a lot of its processes (digestion, energy production, alertness) in order to enter into other processes (recovery, hormone regulation and re-calibration). Eating, an activity which should happen during wakeful times, messes up these natural patterns.

If it is natural to eat when I am awake, why am I hungry in the middle of the night?

Possibility 1: Anxiety

You aren't actually hungry - you're stressed. This keeps you awake with worrying thoughts that prevent you from sleeping. A lot of people turn to food when they feel anxious, because the sugar release or satisfaction hormone leptin (opposite of ghrelin) that follows food consumption brings on a sense of relief. This can turn into a viscous cycle, because you might feel like you can only relax and get back to sleep with the emotionally calming effects of food consumption. This becomes a bad habit that reinforces itself.

Possibility 2: Irregular hunger hormone activity

Psychology Today explains that ghrelin (opposite of leptin), the hunger hormone, is responsible for telling your body when to eat. Like many hormones, it works in cycles of increasing and decreasing intensity. Disturbed sleep patterns might be disrupting the proper regulation of this hormone, along with other hormones. Also, developing the habit of eating late into the night reinforces the times that your body thinks it should be eating. Your ghrelin levels could be too high when they are supposed to be low; due to bad habit repetition. Since ghrelin is supposed to be down-regulated during sleep and up-regulated as you wake up, a disturbance between your sleep and ghrelin balance could be throwing your body's natural processes out.

How do I get out of it?

Here are healthy ways that you can break the negative habit of eating when you are supposed to be sleeping.


One of the benefits of exercise is the fact that it increases good sleep quality. Exercising during the day will take a lot of energy out of you, which will make you more tired at night (especially when you're just starting out). This will initially increase your body's need for sleep and can lengthen the time that you stay asleep before waking up. As your body adjusts to your exercise regime, your quality of sleep will improve. This means that you will sleep deeper and that your body will get more benefit from sleep (that it is supposed to get) before being interrupted.

Eat well before you sleep

By eating a meal rich in nutrients before you go to bed, you satisfy your hunger hormones so that they can last longer before drawing you to your next meal. Aim for foods high in protein, because they take longer to break down and will last longer than foods which are high in sugar or carbohydrates. Protein also helps to balance out blood sugar, so that your sugar levels will not drop too quickly during sleep and cause hunger. Don't drink too many fluids before going to bed, because this might wake you up for bathroom visits. Also, drinking fluids before bed can harm your bladder.

Stress free

If you can determine the root cause of what might be causing the anxiety that is waking you up, you can sleep without the need for food therapy. If you can't fix the anxiety-causing problem, find ways to deal with and accept it. Establish a bed time routine that relaxes you and gets you ready for a good, long sleep cycle. Here are great ways to relax before bed.

Eat less with each visit

Try to break the habit in small increments, just like training the rest of your body. Plan the meals that you will eat in the middle of the night and gradually decrease them over time. This will slowly but surely decreases the amount of food that your body gets used to consuming during your sleep cycle. Eventually, you won't be eating anything anymore.

Our bodies are naturally programmed to work in cycles. When we disrupt these cycles, havoc breaks lose as our bodies try to establish new cyclical patterns to restore order. Maintaining healthy habits strengthen their holds over time. STAY STRONG!