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There are many reasons why people struggle with getting good sleep at night. Maybe you’re stressed about work or your personal life. Maybe you’ve developed poor sleep habits. Maybe you’re napping too much throughout the day. Or, maybe you’re eating too late in the evening.

If you’ve been struggling with getting good sleep, you might be eating too close to bedtime. Although going to bed with a full stomach might seem like a good idea, it can actually hinder your ability to fall asleep. But how long before bed should you stop eating? Most nutritionists recommend that you stop eating three hours before bed. This gives your stomach ample time to digest your food so you can be on your way to a good night’s sleep.

In this blog post, we’ll be discussing how long before bed you should stop eating before bed, the connection between food and sleep, how you can avoid eating late at night, and more. Knowing how to sleep better is crucial for your mental and physical health, and one way to do that is simply by eating dinner earlier.

How Long Should You Stop Eating Before Bed and Why

So, how long should you stop eating before bed? You should wait at least 3 hours after eating to go to bed.This gives you enough time to digest so the food in your stomach can move to your small intestine, thus helping you sleep better. Eating too close to bedtime can cause indigestion, an upset stomach, or heartburn, all of which will keep you up throughout the night.

Wait at least 3 hours after eating to go to bed

Certain foods are especially bad to eat right before bed, like fatty foods, sugary foods, and acidic foods. It’s also key to avoid alcohol and caffeine close to bedtime. Alcohol can interrupt your REM sleep, which can cause you to have a bad night’s rest. Drinking caffeine or eating food with caffeine in it will make it harder for you to get tired at night and can decrease the amount of REM sleep you get. You also shouldn’t drink too many liquids before bed as that can cause you to wake up frequently throughout the night to use the bathroom.

But why should you wait three hours to sleep after eating? That’s because lying down after eating can cause numerous health issues, such as:

  • Weight gain
  • Sleeping problems
  • Acid reflux
  • Heartburn

Although eating a big meal before bed can make you feel tired, it’s important to resist that urge. Lying down right after eating can make it harder for you to fall asleep and impact your quality of rest.

Effects of late-night snacking

So now that we’ve discussed how long you should wait to sleep after eating, let’s talk about the health impact of nighttime eating. There are various pros and cons to eating right before bed.

Pros of Eating Before Bed

  • Weight loss:While you might think that eating before bed would cause weight gain, it actually can do the opposite. This is because your body has the same metabolic rate when you’re sleeping that it has when you’re awake. So eating something before bed will cause your body to keep burning fat while you sleep. This doesn't mean you can just eat anything, though. Stick to high-protein, healthy meals that will continue to fuel your body as you snooze.
  • Curb cravings: If you’re finding yourself waking up unusually hungry in the morning, it might actually be beneficial to eat a snack before bed. This can help to curb your cravings so that you won’t wake up hungry and will eat less throughout the day.
  • Better sleep: Going to bed hungry will definitely cause you to wake up throughout the night. So if you’re hungry before bed, don’t deprive yourself of a snack just because it’s less than three hours before bedtime. Just opt for a small, healthy meal that will help you fall asleep and stay asleep.

Cons of Eating Before Bed

  • Indigestion and heartburn:Eating a big meal before bed can lead to indigestion and heartburn. This is because sleeping immediately after eating can trigger acid reflux, which can result in heartburn, difficulty swallowing, coughing, and more. The key to avoiding indigestion and heartburn at night is by leaving ample time in between your last meal and bedtime.
  • Poor sleep: Eating certain foods, like chocolate or cheese, too close to bedtime can decrease your quality of sleep.
  • Unhealthy choices:When you’re hit with that late-night pang of hunger, you’re more likely to reach for something unhealthy, like chips or cookies.

While there are both pros and cons to eating before bed, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still recommended to wait at least three hours after eating to go to sleep.

How Are Food and Sleep Connected?

You might not think it, but what you eat actually has a huge impact on your quality of sleep. The food we fuel our bodies with has a huge impact on our mental and physical health—including when we’re sleeping. Fueling your body with fruits and veggies, lots of protein, and healthy carbs is key to living a healthy and happy life. If you’re struggling with how to improve sleep quality, a diet change might be necessary.

A lack of vitamins A, C, D, E, and K in your diet can lead to sleeping problems. The same goes for meals that are high in carbohydrates. Consuming high-carbohydrate meals can make you feel drowsy and disrupt your quality of sleep. An unhealthy diet combined with obesity can even trigger more serious health conditions, like obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that causes your breathing to start and stop as you sleep.

Not getting enough sleep can also impact your nutrition intake. People who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to make unhealthy food choices and eat more throughout the day, which can lead to weight gain and other health issues.

Essentially, food and sleep go hand in hand. Not eating enough nutritious foods will impact your quality of sleep, but not getting enough sleep will impact your nutritional intake. So the solution here? Fuel your body with nutrient-dense foods and prioritize getting enough sleep every single night so you can live your best life possible.

Tips for Late-Night Snacking

If you’re fed up with your late-night snacking habits, there are a few things you can do to curb your cravings. One way is to create a healthy eating routine so that you’re not left feeling hungry an hour before bed. It’s also important to eat healthy and satisfying foods throughout the day that will keep you full.

But if you’ve tried your hardest to stop late-night snacking and nothing seems to work, just make sure you opt for healthy snacks at night. But what do I eat? And how long should I wait to sleep after eating? Keep your snack light and nutritious and aim to eat your late-night snack a minimum of three hours before bed, if possible.

Some ideas for healthy late-night snacks include: 

  • Hummus: Is packed with protein and healthy fats
  • Greek yogurt: Is full of protein and is a great source of probiotics to promote a healthy gut
  • Avocado toast: Avocados are a great source of magnesium, which can reduce sleep anxiety
  • Oatmeal: Is a healthy carb that can trigger the release of serotonin
  • Pistachios: They are full of melatonin
  • Almonds: They are packed with healthy fats, protein, and magnesium
  • Tart cherries: They have been found to combat insomnia

An infographic of healthy and unhealthy late-night snacks

Now, let’s move on to some snacks you should avoid eating late at night:

  • Chocolate: Contains high levels of caffeine
  • Spicy foods: Most spicy foods contain capsaicin, which can increase the body’s temperature and disrupt sleep
  • Cheese: Some cheese contains high levels of tyramine, which can make you feel more alert at night
  • Ice cream: Is full of saturated fats and added sugars
  • Fried foods: Take long to digest and can cause heartburn

Now that you know when you should stop eating before bed and what you should eat, you can be on your way to getting better sleep in no time.

Wrapping Up

If you’re struggling with getting good sleep, it might be a good idea to look at what and when you're eating. The cause of your all restless nights might just be because you’re eating too close to bedtime. Not sure how long to wait before sleeping after eating? Nutrients recommend a minimum of three hours so your body can properly digest your food before you hit the hay. But if you’re going to eat within those three hours, just try to make it as healthy as possible.

If you’re still struggling with falling asleep at night, MedCline can help you get a better night’s rest. MedCline offers various products intended to help you sleep better, like a Therapeutic Body Pillow and Shoulder Pain Relief System. If you suffer from heartburn and aren’t sure how to sleep with acid reflux, check out MedCline’s Acid Reflux Relief System. It’s a super comfortable pillow that’s designed to prevent acid reflux and provide protection from stomach acid while helping you get a better night’s rest.