Is It Bad to Eat Before I Go to Sleep?

by Jackie Wicks

Is it bad to eat before you go to sleep, like so many people have heard? Or is there a metabolic advantage to going to sleep on a full stomach?

Watch the video below to find out, or skip to the bulletpoints right after!

Today’s question comes from Patrice.

Patrice writes, “No matter what I do to exercise, or how I eat during the day, I sleep poorly if I do not have a carb snack before bed, which is a problem for weight loss. I have tried protein or veggies, but I toss and turn for a very long time. If I have yogurt and maple syrup, or a slice of bread with honey, I sleep like a baby. Help!”

If you have a nutrition question you’d like to ask me, click here to submit it!

Is It Bad to Eat Before Bed?

It is a myth that we should never eat before sleep. The myth comes from observational data and old studies which show that people who eat after 8PM tend to…

  • Eat junk foods (chips, cookies, crackers, etc.)
  • Eat in front of the TV, which encourages excess food consumption

On the other hand, newer research shows that if you have healthy foods before bed, especially foods high in protein and complex carbs, that you…

  • Burn more calories overnight while asleep
  • Eat less for breakfast the next morning

If you sleep better on a full stomach, then you don’t need to worry about eating before bed, just make healthy choices! Veggies, protein shakes, and oatmeal are all great options.

For Patrice, I recommend oatmeal since she specifically mentions that she needs a carb source to sleep well. I myself usually have a protein shake, and maybe some sweet potato if I have some lying around.

Overall, oatmeal is a great choice because it is…

  • High in complex carbohydrates, including soluble fiber
  • High in protein
  • Traditionally known to be “soothing”

I can’t speak as to whether oats will soothe you to sleep or not, but I the science does suggest that a small amount (1/2 cup uncooked–cooks to 1 cup) will be beneficial for weight loss, at least so long as you account for the extra calories!

Do YOU have a favorite pre-bed snack, or do you sleep better (and lose weight better) when you go to bed on an empty stomach? Let me know in the comments!

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  1. Res PT, Groen B, Pennings B, et al. Protein ingestion before sleep improves postexercise overnight recovery. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012 Aug;44(8):1560-9. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31824cc363.
  2. Waller SM, Vander Wal JS, Klurfeld DM, et al. Evening ready-to-eat cereal consumption contributes to weight management. J Am Coll Nutr. 2004 Aug;23(4):316-21.
  3. Sofer S, Eliraz A, Kaplan S, et al. Greater weight loss and hormonal changes after 6 months diet with carbohydrates eaten mostly at dinner. Obesity. 2011 Oct;19(10):2006-14. doi: 10.1038/oby.2011.48.
  4. Al-Hourani HM, Atoum MF. Body composition, nutrient intake and physical activity patterns in young women during Ramadan. Singapore Med J. 2007 Oct;48(10):906-10.
  5. Sullivan EL, Daniels AJ, Koegler FH, Cameron JL. Evidence in female rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) that nighttime caloric intake is not associated with weight gain. Obes Res. 2005 Dec;13(12):2072-80.

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