Almost everyone gets the munchies before bed at some point. While eating a healthy, balanced snack can help you relax and sleep, overeating and eating certain foods before turning in can cause numerous problems. Learning more about these effects may prompt you to improve your habits. To avoid the need to eat during late-evening hours, aim for balanced meals and snacks throughout the day. For specified guidance, seek counsel from your doctor or dietitian.
Heartburn happens when acidic stomach contents rise back up into your esophagus after eating, causing a tight or burning sensation in your chest. Lying down after you eat can trigger these symptoms or make them worse. To avoid sleep disruptions associated with heartburn, Dr. Timothy Morgenthaler, a sleep specialist with Mayo.Clinic.com, recommends avoiding highly spicy and garlic-flavored foods late in the day. Overeating or eating highly acidic or fatty foods, such as tomato sauce, orange juice or fried foods, can also contribute to heartburn -- particularly if you're prone to the condition.
Overeating and Weight Gain
Calories consumed before bed cause no more weight gain than calories consumed at other times. The problem is that foods common among evening-eaters aren't often healthy, says Ellie Krieger, a registered dietitian and author of "The Food You Crave." Snack foods, such as potato chips, candy and cookies, are also easy to overeat.
Insomnia, or the inability to fall or stay asleep, is the most common sleep complaint among Americans, according to the National Sleep Foundation. And eating or drinking too much at night can contribute. Alcohol and caffeine, particularly near bedtime, can worsen insomnia symptoms dramatically. Going to bed hungry, however, can also trigger sleep problems. Your best bet may be an evening snack containing carbohydrates and protein, such as cereal and milk. These foods promote calmness.
If you have asthma, eating before bed could be particularly problematic, according to a study published in "The American Journal of Gastroenterology" in 2004. In the study, the eating habits and bronchial symptoms of 261 people with asthma and 218 without were interviewed extensively. Participants with asthma who ate before bed had significantly more day and nighttime gastroesophageal reflux symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing and suffocation, than participants who did not. The researchers concluded that bedtime eating habits could have serious, even life-threatening repercussions for asthmatics.