There’s been a lot of talk in the news lately about how bad it can be to still be eating close to bedtime. Problems like weight gain and reduced sleep quality are some of the worst side effects. It can even make it difficult to fall asleep in the first place. Unfortunately, between our busy schedules and nighttime rumblies in our tumblies, it can be difficult to to avoid eating right before bed.
But it’s not completely hopeless. You can still lose weight, get good quality sleep, and find a way to keep yourself from going to bed starving. It’s important to understand, however, exactly why eating late at night is so bad for you. It can help put things in perspective so that you are more motivated to make better decisions about your health.
Eating Before Bed Compromises Your Lifespan and Your Health Span
Have you heard about autophagy? In its own way, it has a strong connection between sleep and eating before bed. When you eat right before bed it shortens the amount of time you spend fasting during any 24 hour period. When you’re fasting, autophagy happens. Autophagy is great because it does several good things for your body which improve both longevity and your overall quality of life.
Autophagy is any small amount of stress which makes your body build itself back up stronger and more resilient. There are many things that do this; exercise, swimming in cold water, or spending time in a sauna are just a few. One of the easiest ways to trigger autophagy, though, is fasting. The longer you fast during a 24-hour period, the more benefits you will get.
It may seem difficult to go for an extended period of time without food. Not only will there be physical side effects at first, but our culture has brainwashed us into believing that you will immediately go into “starvation mode” and suffer negative health consequences if you aren’t eating every few hours. This is just plain baloney, and there’s plenty of scientific evidence to prove it. If you get good quality sleep at night, you’re automatically fasting for at least 8 hours out of your day. And the more distance you put between your final meal and bedtime, the more fasting you can squeeze in. That leads to more autophagy and better health benefits – including good sleep.
The Dreaded Inflammation That Comes With Late Night Meals
Everyone these days is talking about inflammation – and for good reason. Inflammation is more rampant in modern society than it has ever been before, and it is taking a serious toll on our health and wellness. Doctors and scientists now believe that there are a plethora of autoimmune diseases which can be directly connected to inflammation.
The connection between late night eating and inflammation isn’t quite so straightforward. But late night feeding can cause a series of unfortunate events which will lead to an inflammatory response. The cycle goes a little something like this:
- Eating late at night raises your blood sugar right before bed
- Raised blood sugar triggers your pancreas to secrete more insulin
- When your insulin spikes in this manner, it causes a blood sugar crash
- Your body scrambles to recover from this crash (while it should be restoring and regenerating itself instead)
- Hormone levels spike, including the stress hormone cortisol
- When your cortisol levels spike, it creates a snowball effect of inflammatory reactions
Granted, we aren’t trying to demonize every form of immune activity. The occasional acute inflammatory response is fine, like in the event that you get injured and need to repair. But if you’re constantly triggering this response outside of the need to heal or fight disease, it can lead to serious health problems like metabolic syndrome or type 2 diabetes, among others.
The Emerging Dangers of Adrenal Fatigue
Speaking of cortisol, we need to talk about adrenal fatigue. These are the glands which sit on top of your kidneys and regulate the vast majority of cortisol which is produced in your body. If you’re constantly eating late in the evening and causing cortisol spikes while you sleep, your adrenals will eventually run out of steam. This is what medical experts refer to as adrenal fatigue.
If left unchecked for too long, it can cause diseases such as hypothyroidism. More specifically, adrenal fatigue is considered a secondary type of hypothyroidism. This distinction is important because these two types of the disease require different kinds of treatment. If you get the wrong type of treatment, it can make the condition worse! So do yourself a favor and stop eating before bed if you want to avoid the dreaded adrenal fatigue.
How to Avoid Eating Before Bed
Taking a natural sleep aid half an hour before bed can help reduce some of the gnawing hunger which prompts people to eat late at night. They usually instruct you to take the supplement with a full glass of water. Since having something in your belly usually prevents your stomach from growling, this can amplify the benefits of your sleep aid.
If your sleep supplement happens to contain melatonin, that’s even better. Melatonin has an inverse relationship with cortisol – this means that the more melatonin you have in your system at night, the less cortisol your body will produce. Not only does this calm you down and make it easier for you to sleep at night, but it helps reduce the long-term consequences of late night eating.
If you simply can’t or don’t want to stop eating too close to bedtime, there’s really nothing at the end of the day we can do to influence your decision. We can only offer you at the facts and hope that you make the right decision for your health and wellness. But we hope you’ll at least consider giving this one, simple lifestyle change a chance. We promise that you’ll experience some very real and very wonderful benefits.