Late-night meals and midnight snacks aren’t uncommon. Whether you get home late from work and have to eat dinner when you’re usually going to bed, watch a movie late and snack on popcorn, or feel the need to graze on food to stay awake on a late study night, there’s a temptation to eat during the nighttime hours. Is this harmless, or is eating at night bad for you? Science consistently has told us it’s an unhealthy habit.
Why Is It Bad To Eat At Night?
Our bodies have a circadian rhythm: a 24-hour cycle that affects everything from our energy levels and metabolism to the way our organs function. We are wired to be awake and to eat during the day, and to sleep at night, when it is dark.
But if we alter our natural rhythm by working night shift, being exposed to light at night, or eating at night (particularly junk food), it can interfere with normal circadian function. A host of negative changes can occur in the body particularly when we eat at night.
Health Effects Of Eating At Night
One of the most important reasons why you should avoid eating late at night is due to the possible risk of weight gain associated with this habit. While many people are aware of the fact that eating late may contribute to weight gain, they are not always aware of how this can happen. Increases in your body weight during this period of time are caused primarily by changes in the rate at which your metabolism functions during sleeping versus waking hours.
When you eat during the day, you are relatively active, and your metabolism is functioning rapidly. In contrast, during sleep, your metabolism has slowed quite a bit–and because of this, the food that you have recently eaten will be metabolized and digested at a much slower rate. This contributes to increases in body weight, and possible obesity. People who are trying to lose weight should avoid eating at least two hours before they go to bed. If you must have something to snack on in the evening, consider choosing fruits, vegetables or other products which are low in fat and calories.
2).Fluctuations In Sleep Cycle
Another important reason why you may want to avoid eating late is due to the effect it can have on your sleep cycle. Research has found that the digestive process can have serious implications on your sleep cycle, causing you to wake up more often, and have a harder time falling asleep in the first place. One of the worst foods that you can eat if you have a hard time falling asleep at night are sugary foods such as cookies and other baked goods. In contrast, chamomile tea or warm milk may actually help you fall asleep at night.
3).Increased Urination And Excretion Needs
One last reason why you may want to avoid eating late at night is that doing so may increase the number of times that you need to get up to use the restroom during the night. Eating late at night will result in food being digested during your sleeping hours–and because of this, you may need to wake up to eliminate the waste products. If you are really hungry late at night, consider eating foods with high amounts of fiber, such as whole grains. These products take a long time to digest, and won’t need to be excreted for at least eight hours.
4). You Eat Unhealthy Food
late-night eating has such a dubious reputation is because it’s almost synonymous with overeating, binge eating, or eating junk food. When night-time eating has more to do with satisfying cravings and dealing with boredom than with actual hunger, it starts affecting your health.
In fact, studies have shown that people tend to choose more highly palatable items – sweet and salty foods that tend to be high in calories – when they’re tired, when they’ve restrained themselves all day, or if they want to relax after a long day’s work.
5).Effect On Psychological Imbalance
Another disadvantage of late night eating is on the psychology of the person. Night eating involves the person eating in secrecy which makes him feel embarrassed.They are frequently attacked by the pangs of guilt and remorse. Night eating penetrates to such deeper levels in the brain of the victim that they almost fail to gather confidence in themselves. It affects the pituitary glands in the brain which makes the victim to consume food at the off hours of the night. In addition to this, night eating cuts down on the confidence of the person and also force them to eat beyond control even in the absence of hunger.
6).Can impact Your Blood Sugars
What and how much you eat can directly affect your blood sugars both overnight and the next morning, especially if your snack choices are mostly carbohydrate foods, like crackers, chips, or fruit. Your diabetes medicine may not completely “cover” excessive eating at night and you may be unpleasantly surprised the next morning when you check your blood sugar and find that it’s higher than desired. There are ways to prevent those morning high readings: Choose lower-carb snacks, such as nuts, lower-fat cheese, raw veggies, or a hard-boiled egg, for example. Some carbohydrate may be OK to eat, such as 15–20 grams-worth (a small piece of fruit or 6 ounces of light-style yogurt, for instance). Otherwise, if you prefer to eat later at night, talk with your doctor about adjusting your medication to better handle late-night eating.
7).Might Raise The Risk Of Breast Cancer
A new study shows that nighttime eating may raise the risk of breast cancer, as well as Type 2 diabetes. The authors of the study found that fasting overnight is necessary for overall health and helps the body metabolism work in sync with the body’s sleep-wake cycles. In this study, for every three extra hours of fasting at night, women were 20% less likely to have high blood sugars and a lower risk of illness. Previous research has shown that women with Type 2 diabetes have a 23% higher risk of getting breast cancer; night-shift workers also have a higher risk of breast cancer. Of course, this is a single study, so more work needs to be done in this area. However, it’s certainly food for thought, especially if you’re at risk for getting Type 2 diabetes or breast cancer.
8).Raises The Risk For Acid Reflux
There’s no surprise here: Chowing down after everyone else has gone to bed may seem like a good idea, but there’s a price to pay: heartburn. Lying down after eating (at any time of the day or night) can cause acid from the stomach to “backwash” into the esophagus, causing pain, burning, and shortness of breath. Continued episodes of heartburn may indicate gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, which, if not treated, can lead to further problems over time. If you do eat at night, choose lower-fat, nonacidic foods, watch your portions, and allow at least two hours to pass before lying down.
9).Can Affect learning And Memory
A study done with mice who were fed when they should have been sleeping showed that they had extreme difficulty in remembering what they had previously learned; they also had trouble with object recognition. Scientists believe the same issues can occur in humans, and it’s based on — again — the disruption of the sleep-wake cycle. Once your internal clock gets messed up, a whole host of problems, including learning and memory troubles, can set in.
10).Feeling Too Full For Breakfast
Filling your stomach up very late at night can make you feel full the next morning. This, in turn, can make you skip breakfast, something that’s called morning anorexia.
Breakfast is the most important meal and revs up your metabolism. So skipping breakfast might make you so hungry by lunch time that you may eat way more than you should. This can then lead to delaying dinner – and the cycle continues.
A case in point is college-age young adults or working adults with busy schedules. They opt not to eat at all during the morning and their consumption patterns peak in the latter part of the day.