Is it safe to eat before sleeping?

In this short article, we will provide an answer to the question, “Is it safe to eat before sleeping?”, and discuss the effect of eating before sleep on sleep quality, the kind of foods you should avoid to get a good night’s sleep and the risks and benefits of eating before sleep on health.

Is it safe to eat before sleeping?

It is safe to eat before sleeping, but it is recommended by dietitians that you leave a three-hour gap between your last meal and sleep. This allows digestion and the stomach contents to flow into the small intestine without being obstructed. In addition, this may assist you in avoiding evening heartburn and, perhaps, restless nights (1).

What is the effect of eating before sleep on sleep quality?

The effect of eating before sleep on sleep quality varies according to the meal’s composition. While some foods can improve sleep quality, other kinds can disturb it.

For example, scientific evidence suggests that high carbohydrate diets are associated with reduced sleep onset latency (the amount of time you need to fall asleep after bed). This type of food also reduces slow-wave sleep.

Therefore, while this type of food may help you fall asleep faster, the quality of brain waves during sleep may be affected.

High-fat diets promote lower sleep efficiency and rapid eye movement sleep (REM), the deeper sleep phase essential for restorative sleep. Thus, these are some of the types of foods that most impair the quality of sleep.

Some foods, such as milk products, fish, fruit, and vegetables, also show sleep-promoting effects, but more research is needed to draw definitive conclusions.

Additionally, there is evidence to indicate that the time of food consumption impacts sleep quality and quantity. Food may cause the brain’s alertness response to be activated, making it more difficult to fall asleep after eating.

While we suggest that you avoid late-night eating, we also recommend avoiding going to sleep hungry. Even while sleeping, your body needs the energy to function correctly. Going to bed hungry or skipping meals depletes your body’s ability to regenerate and heal itself, resulting in fatigue (1–4). 

What kind of foods should I avoid to get a good night’s sleep? 5 foods that harm your night’s sleep.

You should avoid foods that are primarily stimulants or high in fat. Below, we will outline some of the main culprits that can negatively impact your sleep quality.

  • Chocolate:

Due to its significant caffeine content, chocolate is not recommended as a late-night snack option. Caffeine can make you alert and increase your heart rate, making it harder to fall asleep. It is recommended to avoid caffeine-containing meals and beverages between four and six hours before sleep.

  • Cheddar Cheese:

Strong or aged cheeses, as well as preserved meats like bacon, ham, and pepperoni, contain high levels of the amino acid tyramine, which can make us feel alert and energized after consuming them. Tyramine activates the adrenal gland, causing it to secrete the “fight or flight” hormone, temporarily increasing alertness for a short period.

  • Spices:

Hot sauces, curries, and mustard, among other spicy foods, contain high amounts of capsaicin. This compound interferes with the body’s thermoregulation system, raising body temperature and causing sleep disturbances. 

  • Alcohol:

Alcohol can disrupt the normal sleep cycle, leading to poorer quality sleep. It can increase the number of times you wake up during the night, reduce deep sleep, and exacerbate sleep disorders. Additionally, alcohol can cause dehydration and lead to feelings of fatigue and grogginess the next day.

  • Ice Cream:

Ice cream and other sweet treats increase blood sugar levels throughout the day, which then decreases while sleeping at night. A decrease in blood sugar alerts the adrenals that an emergency has occurred, resulting in a rise in cortisol levels and the body waking up (2,3,5).

What are the risks of eating before sleep on health?

The effects of eating before sleep on the heath are more associated with the risk of metabolic diseases, as described below:

  • Obesity

Consuming more calories than we expend as energy is one of the reasons that contribute to obesity since excess fat is stored in the body as a result of overeating. 

During the rest period, our body is not properly equipped for the digestion process, which alters the production of hormones related to energy control, thus facilitating weight gain.

  • Diabetes

If your blood sugar levels become unusually high and your body is unable or unwilling to produce enough insulin to keep them under control, you are said to have diabetes. 

This condition can be exacerbated by consuming food before sleeping for the same reasons mentioned in the previous section. This is due to the dysregulation of hormones responsible for metabolizing consumed glucose.

  • Heart Problems

Heart disease is a broad phrase that includes any diseases that affect the cardiovascular system, such as congenital heart defects, hypertension, and arrhythmias, among other things. 

A frequent diet of processed foods, especially late at night, has been proven to limit blood flow and cause arterial clogging with cholesterol and fatty deposits (4,6,7).

What are the benefits of eating before sleep on health?

The benefits of eating before sleep on health are also related to the quantity and quality of meals. While avoiding eating a large meal right before bed is generally recommended, there are some benefits to having a small snack before sleep. Here are a few potential benefits:

  • Improved sleep quality

A small snack can help stabilize blood sugar levels and prevent hunger, leading to better sleep quality.

  • Increased muscle recovery

Snack that contains protein before bed can help promote muscle recovery and growth during sleep.

  • Reduced morning hunger

Eating a small snack before bed can help reduce morning hunger and prevent overeating at breakfast.

  • Improved metabolism 

A small snack before bed can help boost metabolism and promote weight loss, as long as the snack is healthy and not too high in calories.

It’s important to note that the type of snack you choose is essential. Avoid foods high in sugar or fat, as these can disrupt sleep and lead to weight gain. Instead, choose a snack high in protein and low in sugar, such as a small serving of Greek yogurt or a handful of nuts.

Remember, it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian before making any significant changes to your diet (8-11).


In this brief article, we provided an answer to the question, “Is it safe to eat before sleeping?” and discussed the effects of eating before sleep on sleep quality, the types of foods that should be avoided for a good night’s sleep, and the risks and benefits of eating before sleep on health.


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