Guest Blog:

While eating in bed is generally not recommended for the sake of cleanliness, it is also not recommended for your health. Large meals right before bed, or in bed, can cause acid reflux, which disturbs sleep. However, developing a healthy eating schedule can help you keep your body and sleep rhythms in balance.

Circadian Rhythms and Your Bedtime

Circadian rhythms play a vital role in your sleep cycle. These rhythms affect everything from your sleep-wake cycle to your eating habits and digestion. Your body is programmed to stop eating when the sun goes down in preparation for sleep. Late night heavy meals work against this natural order and can lead to unwanted weight gain.

We each have our tendencies when it comes to sleep. Some people are naturally night owls who stay up and sleep late. Others get tired early in the evening and wake at the first sign of daylight.

Studies have found that those who stay up late and sleep in are at a higher risk for weight gain. Night owls are more likely to consume fast food and have a higher body mass index. Those late night calories are less likely to get burned off right away. That puts night owls at risk for heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses. If you are a night owl, you may want to focus on eating more smaller meals throughout the day to avoid late night munchies.

Shift Those Rhythms

Going to bed late and late night eating are both behaviors that can be changed. It might take some time and effort, but you might find it easier to stick to a healthy eating plan when your sleep cycle supports your efforts rather than works against them.

Good Food Habits to Try

A few tips that will help you fall asleep sooner and stop those late night munchies include:

  • Eat Regularly-Spaced Meals: Meal timing influences your circadian rhythms. Regularly spaced meals help your body know when it’s time to shut down for the day.
  • Avoid Stimulants: Stimulants artificially keep the body going when it might be more appropriate to slow down and rest. When it comes to establishing your sleep cycle, avoid stimulants at least four hours before going to bed.
  • Smart Late Night Snacks: Sometimes hunger pains can keep you awake or wake you up during the night. There’s nothing wrong with a light, healthy snack before bed. But, choose your food wisely. Many foods contribute to better sleep including dairy products, bananas, and almonds, all of which have vitamins and minerals that promote the production of melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone.

Shift Your Sleep Cycle

Shifting your sleep cycle isn’t as easy as adjusting what you eat, but it can be done. Make sure you have a cozy mattress that doesn’t contribute to aches and pains during the night. Keep your bedroom at a cool 60-68 degrees and try these tips:

  • Consistent Bed and Wake Times: Consistent bed and wake times help establish your circadian rhythms. If you’re trying to go to bed earlier, make the change a little bit at a time. If you normally go to bed at midnight, go to bed 30 minutes earlier for a week. The next week try 30 minutes earlier than that until you’ve reached your ideal bedtime. Wake up and go to bed at the same time every day, even on weekends.
  • Get More Light: During the day, expose yourself to as much natural light as possible. Light exposure affects your sleep cycle so the more you can get the better.
  • Turn Off Screens: If you’re watching television or reading a book on your smartphone at night, the bright light from the screen can confuse the brain into thinking it needs to be awake. Turn off screens at least one hour before your desired bedtime to keep your body running on schedule.

Selina Hall is an expert on sleep health and wellness for She believes that sleep is one of the most important pillars of health. Selina lives in Portland, Oregon. She sleeps best under a handmade quilt passed down from her great-grandmother.

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