Should You Eat Before Bed? Here Are the Health Risks

We’ve all done it. Reaching into the fridge when the rest of the house is already asleep makes you feel like you’re doing something naughty. And that almost makes that late-night snack taste even sweeter. Crunch a little louder. Seem a little saltier.

The research behind whether or not eating before bed hurts your health has produced mixed results over the years. But there are a few key ways it could definitely cause you trouble later on if it becomes a bad habit you can’t seem to break out of.

Here are the biggest health risks you’re facing if you’re a late-night snacker — and the reason why you’re probably always hungry by the end of the day.

You’re more likely to gain weight

An overweight woman visits a doctor.

An overweight woman visits a doctor. | belchonock/iStock/Getty Images

The reason┬ábehind the association between late-night snacking and weight gain actually has nothing to do with your metabolism. The only difference between eating right before bed and “fasting” until morning is that the former involves one key ingredient: calories.

When you add another snack — or even another full meal — to your daily total, that’s more calories your body will either burn or store for later use. Even if it’s healthy, those are still extra units of energy your body doesn’t technically need in order to fuel your sleep cycle.

Still, what you do choose to munch on before your head hits the pillow can still make a difference. But while a few spoonfuls of Greek yogurt or a handful of baby carrots would have far fewer consequences than a few cookies, so late in the day, you’re less likely to make healthy choices.

You probably won’t choose a healthy bedtime snack

It’s the end of the day. You’re tired, you’re hangry, and you’re probably not going to raid the fridge in search of fresh veggies. Chances are, you’re looking for something sweet, salty, and high in calories, like ice cream or potato chips. Or both.

Whether you’re thinking about all the ways today went wrong, worrying about work tomorrow, or you normally snack out of boredom, stress can drive anyone to eat foods they know aren’t good for them. Maybe you’re personally more likely to eat healthy in the morning because you see it as a fresh start, and b the time 10:45 hits, you usually just shrug and reach for whatever you feel like eating.

And while junk food probably won’t hurt you if it’s an occasional habit, eating it daily increases your risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and more of the nation’s deadliest diseases.

Do you always seem to go to bed hungry if you don’t squeeze in a pre-bedtime meal or snack? There’s actually a possible reason why. And you can do something about it.

The real reason you’re always so hungry before bed

Late-night snack

Late-night snack | iStock.com

It’s 10:45 p.m. — 15 minutes before your usual “bedtime.” You know you could just crawl beneath the sheets, close your eyes, and not think about food until breakfast. But your stomach won’t stop growling. Hungry — again — you head to the kitchen for a quick snack. This happens almost daily.

If this sounds like you, there’s a logical reason you can’t seem to kick your nighttime snack habit. Frequent bedtime snacking is often a sign you aren’t eating enough during the day.

Many people deprive themselves of essential calories and nutrients in the morning and early afternoon because they’re trying to avoid unhealthy foods and lose weight. But when you don’t eat healthy foods that keep you full, the junk food cravings hit hard — and you’re less likely to be able to resist them.

Not eating enough pretty much guarantees you’re going to eat more later on. Especially late in the evening when you start thinking about that piece of pizza you could have had at lunch instead of a lettuce wrap.

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