What Happens When You Sleep Immediately After Eating?

    The truth is that most people feel sleepy after eating. This could be because of sleep cycles and digestion patterns. However, some foods and the timing of meals during the day could lead to lethargy after eating. So what happens to your body if you sleep immediately after a meal?

    Read on to find out.

    What Happens When You Eat and Sleep

    You have just eaten a plate of food and downed it with a drink so the first thing to note is that you have food in your stomach that needs digesting. And the first thing people do when they are full is lay down and rest.

    • GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease)

    Lying back after a meal feels relaxing at first but digestion should take place when the body is upright. Your stomach is full of food and gravity will not be in your favor if you lie down when full. Your stomach acid may come up your gut giving you acid reflux. If you continually sleep after eating, you might be at risk for more digestive diseases as the body is not able to digest food properly in a horizontal position.

    • Insomnia

    There is evidence pointing to digestive issues keeping you up at night especially if you had eaten fatty food or was drinking later in the day.  Eating later in the day may keep you from falling asleep. Caffeine will keep you up and alcohol might make it harder for you to have restful sleep despite making you sleepy. If you ate or drank too much, you might wake up in the middle of the night for a bathroom break and this disrupts sleep.

    • Bad Dreams

    Late night snacking may be the cause of nightmares. Scientists pin this to an increase in metabolism making the brain more active. According to the National Sleep Foundation, eating close to bedtime is a leading cause of bad dreams so if you are having weird dreams at night, it could be time to lay off the crisps right before bed.

    • Weight Gain

    Weight gain may not be a direct result of snacking at night but snacking sure affects how much weight one gains or loses. If you want to lose weight, you should focus on burning off more calories than you are taking in. Whether you eat the calories in the morning, noon or night is not as important as how much you eat.

    If you do want to cut weight, avoid snacking before bed as your metabolism has slowed down before then. This makes any undigested calories to be stored as fat. Although data is limited, studies also show that eating high fat meals before bed will take one longer to sleep deeply.

    • Impaired Judgment

    Eating late at night could be a cause for impaired judgment and reduced willpower that come with being tired. You see when you are hungry in the middle of night, you might reach out for an unhealthy snack like a pack of cookies or crisps rather than a salad. Choosing such a meal can be detrimental to your sleep, as it will take longer to digest fatty foods so you will not be getting enough rest during the night. Lack of proper restful sleep leads to grogginess during the day.

    • Ruined Eating Cycle

    Eating late in the night may upset your eating cycle, as you might be less hungry in the morning. If you skip breakfast, chances are high that you will overeat during lunch. This may then lead to you eating another meal later in the night causing various issues including a higher risk for stroke, mental exhaustion and indigestion.

    How long should you wait to go to sleep after eating?

    Late night eating may be unavoidable because of school, work or general life. If you do have to make a meal close to bedtime, how much time should elapse before you retire to bed?

    As a rule of thumb, it is recommendable to wait three hours between your last meal and bedtime. This will allow digestion to take place, avoiding problems like heartburn and insomnia. By giving your body this time, here is a likelihood of better sleep and no heartburn as the food will have moved to the small intestine.

    If you do happen to be awake later in the night and 4-5 hours have already passed since your last meal, you can have a snack before bedtime.

    I need a snack before bedtime, what should I eat?

    If you must eat before bed, opt for a healthier snack or meal with the right balance of protein, fiber and carbohydrates. Eating a balanced snack will help the body to stabilize blood sugar levels, which is required for a full night’s rest.

    Some healthy snacking options before bedtime include;

    • Warm milk and honey
    • Almond mix
    • Peanut butter
    • Blueberries
    • Low fat yogurt with fruit
    • Whole grains
    • Seafood or poultry
    • Scrambled eggs
    • Crackers and Cheese
    • Greek yogurt
    • Avocado with cottage cheese
    • Apple slices
    • Kiwi

    Note that while eating the right snacks is important, it is also important to check the portions that one is eating right before bed. Any portions larger than the suggested serving beat the whole purpose of snacking right. You will be too full before bed and will have the same problems with eating unhealthy. It might also lead to weight gain. It is necessary to watch WHEN and HOW MUCH you are eating before bedtime.


    Many people experience a drop of energy after eating especially if it was calorie dense food. This is often a natural biological response to feeling full. However, if this is getting in the way of everyday life, you may benefit from eating right.

    Eating heavy and unhealthy meals once or twice is not likely to cause you any harm. However, take precaution so that this is not a habit. It is also important to balance your caloric expenditure and intake to prevent weight gain from late snacking. Your body will thank you with some well-deserved shuteye and you will feel so much better in the morning.

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