How long to wait before going to bed after eating?

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If you eat too late and have trouble falling asleep or falling asleep (common symptoms of insomnia ), you may be wondering: How long should I wait between eating and going to bed? Is it bad to go to bed too early after eating?

Whether it's a midnight snack or just a late dinner after a busy day, find out how much time passes before bed after eating and what symptoms you may experience, including insomnia and nighttime heartburn, if you don't wait long enough before bed. …

Get Medication Information / Brianna Gilmartin

Recommended intervals

As a general rule of thumb, dietitians recommend that you wait about three hours between your last meal and bedtime. This allows the digestion process and the movement of stomach contents into the small intestine. It can prevent problems like nighttime heartburn and even insomnia.

Allowing this delay will reduce the likelihood of heartburn symptoms. Lying down can cause stomach contents to back up into the esophagus, causing heartburn or GERD symptoms. This is more likely if the stomach does not empty completely at bedtime .

Waiting for several people to go to bed after the last meal can reduce the likelihood of sleep disturbances that contribute to insomnia due to the effects of the meal itself on sleep.

On the other hand, the belief that a two-hour interval between meals and sleep can improve blood sugar control has been largely refuted. A 2019 study from Japan found no association between two-hour latency and HbA1c levels .

The connection between food and sleep.

Some foods contain substances that improve sleep. For example, turkey and pork chops contain high levels of tryptophan, a substance that our body metabolizes into serotonin and melatonin , which induce sleep. Also, some foods, like cherries, contain small amounts of melatonin.

Other foods can be calming, like a glass of warm milk, which can help us relax and mentally prepare for bed as part of our normal bedtime routine. Alcohol in a glass can cause drowsiness at first, but it fades quickly and can actually fragment and disrupt sleep. It can also make sleep apnea worse due to the relaxation of the muscles in the airways.

There is also evidence that eating times can affect sleep. Food intake triggers the release of insulin, which is also associated with the circadian rhythm . Food can signal wakefulness in the brain and prevent you from falling asleep.

When food interrupts sleep

Eating before bed can hurt your sleep. This can be especially true if you eat too much or consume certain foods that cause heartburn .

Lying down can lead to reflux symptoms that lead to chest discomfort and bitterness in the mouth. Some people describe this as "burping without food." Spicy and acidic foods like citrus fruits and tomatoes can be especially unpleasant. Alcohol, chocolate, and even peppermint can also make heartburn and reflux worse.

Also, you should avoid consuming caffeine in coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks, and chocolate. Caffeine blocks adenosine , a chemical that makes you sleepy and, if consumed too close before bed, can contribute to insomnia .

It can also increase the need to urinate at night, a condition called nocturia . Not everyone is sensitive to caffeine, but if so, consider limiting your caffeine intake early in the day.

In general, having a snack before bed is not a problem. A 2015 study published in the journal Nutrients concluded that a small snack (150 calories or less) may even be beneficial for muscle protein synthesis and cardiometabolic health .

Get the word of drug information

If you are still having trouble sleeping after sharing your food and sleeping, speak with a sleep specialist about your treatment options. Occasionally, a wedge pillow may be required for sleeping or a medication to treat heartburn.

In rare cases, surgery can strengthen the sphincter (muscular ring) between the esophagus and the stomach. Fortunately, simple interventions are often successful.

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