Is it better to go to bed on an empty stomach, full stomach or in-between? –Matt K.
Yours is a popular question, Matt. At bedtime, it’s best to have only enough in your stomach to sleep peacefully and then wake up hungry in the morning. Any more than that and you’d be storing extra calories as fat, any less and you’re likely to toss and turn from your stomach growling.
Try to adhere to the notion of “eat for what you are going to do.”
Since sleeping requires little energy, you don’t need to fuel up beyond a sensible dinner. Now, if you’re planning on running a half marathon in the morning you might want to maximize glycogen (stored carbohydrate) the night before. If you’ve had dinner at 6 p.m. and you are still up at midnight, then it’s really a matter of how you sleep best. In my book, it’s more important to get adequate sleep for your metabolism.
See my previous answer to a similar question “Is it really bad to eat right before you go to sleep?”
If you are going to eat before bed, the type of food is as important as the amount.
A stomach full of greens or peppers but little energy may just leave you in a digestive nightmare; as might a handful of calorie-rich cheese or nuts. Whereas a small bowl of light cereal could put you in the mood for some ZZZs. Simple proteins, like a hard cooked egg or Greek yogurt, are filling and can tide you over until morning.
Sleep experts say the belief that one must eat in order to fall asleep is untrue. Researchers determined that individuals who overeat for reasons other than hunger tend to have poor sleep continuity and shorter sleep duration. The cause-and-effect is not clear, but shorter sleep is associated with higher body mass index and increased caloric intake.
Overall, I don’t advise eating anything after a balanced dinner unless perhaps you’d like some fresh fruit for dessert.
- Debbie J., MS, RD
Do you have a question about your diet or nutrition?