We’ve all been there – it’s one in the morning and you’re still hungry. Your tummy rumbles; you get out of bed and make your way to the kitchen for a late-night snack. I mean, who can sleep when they’re hungry?? But are there any health consequences to late-night snacking? We probably don’t even think about it, but maybe we should. We shouldn’t go to bed hungry! Some of the consequences are common sense. For one thing, if you’re grabbing a snack in the middle of the night, you’ll probably have trouble falling back asleep. You just consumed calories, which turn into energy inside the body. Not too great for your sleep cycle, which is essential for getting that deep, revitalizing sleep. By eating when you should be sleeping, and disrupting your sleep cycle, you’re short-changing yourself in getting those 8 hours. Another point to think about is that eating a huge bowl of cereal at 1AM isn’t great if you’re trying to lose weight. You scarf down that bowl of cereal, and then go back to bed, where your body will be mostly at rest: all that cereal is going to just sit there in your digestive tract. You’re taking in calories, fat, and carbohydrates that you won’t need to burn to use for energy for a while. This can cause the weight to pile on. But like I said, we’ve all been there; it may not even be hunger that wakes us up; we might have a midnight craving. We’re more prone to this, though, if we’ve gone to bed hungry. At night we tend to crave foods that are either salty or sweet. So, if you have to get out of bed and curb that hunger, or satisfy that craving, try to choose something healthy to eat. Are there even more consequences of going to bed on an empty stomach? Well, you could lose muscle mass if you go to bed hungry. The part of the digestion process that turns what we’ve eaten throughout the day into good nutrients happens while we’re sleeping. Going to bed on an empty stomach may deprive us of the nutrients we need to turn protein into lean muscle, and all that hard work at the gym will go to waste! The body also repairs muscle while we’re sleeping, so disrupting that sleep – to, say, grab a snack – may also get in the way of seeing the progress of our workouts. Another unwanted consequence of going to bed hungry is that it may make you hangry! We all get cranky when we’re hungry, but say you’re up early for work, rushing around, and don’t have time for breakfast. You get to work and all you can think about is how hungry you are. That’s terrible for your mood and productivity! Going to bed hungry will make for a cranky start to your day. Along with the damper on your mood, it’ll make you even grumpier when you wake up tired, and don’t feel like you have any energy. During the night, our body is still performing important functions – such as digesting your dinner – and this requires energy, which we get from calories. Going to bed on an empty stomach may only leave us with enough calories to perform these essential bodily functions while we sleep, which means we’ll have none left in the morning to start off the day. Our bodies really need fuel 24/7. Your insulin levels and pancreas will also be affected. Eating regularly keeps your insulin levels consistent, and your blood sugar will stay steady. Going to bed on an empty stomach will cause your blood sugar to drop. If you’re diabetic, this is dangerous. But even if you’re a completely healthy person, this may cause you to wake up feeling dizzy or with a headache. Again, not good for the mood or energy level, right? In the same way, grabbing a late-night snack will cause a spike in blood sugar, and your pancreas will have to work harder to balance your insulin levels again. This causes you to use unnecessary energy while you’re sleeping. Going to bed on an empty stomach is also not good for those that have acid reflux disease. Say you go to bed hungry and wake up at 2AM with your stomach rumbling. You go to the kitchen and grab a snack. Your tummy is now full, and you lay down in bed. Acid reflux happens when extra acid from food sitting in the stomach splashes up into the throat, causing an uncomfortable burn and taste, and heartburn. Laying down with a full stomach makes it easier for this to happen. You might experience this even if you don’t have acid reflux. And if that doesn’t cause you enough discomfort, you could end up having indigestion, and eventually gas, depending on the type of midnight munchie you like to eat. Now you really won’t get back to sleep! Get this! Going to bed with an empty stomach can affect your dreams! For one thing, if you’re laying there falling asleep, and thinking about that salty snack you want, you might start salivating, which leads to drooling. Eww, right? But since hunger is one of our most basic survival needs as humans, we become hyper-aware of our hunger, no matter what time of day it is. If you’re really focused on something, you’re likely to dream about it! You may have dreams about all kinds of foods. If you’re lucid dreaming – that’s when you’re aware that you’re dreaming, so you’re more in control – the lucid-dream food will probably “taste” better to you, because you’ll be thinking about the best parts of that food or meal. That’s amazing, right? There are also a lot of myths surrounding the question of whether going to bed on an empty stomach can give you nightmares. The answer is…probably not. We have nightmares when we’re under extreme stress, have trouble with anxiety, or are dealing with a trauma that we’ve experienced in our life. These are the main causes of nightmares. BUT going to bed hungry may compound or add to what we’re stressed about. So going to bed on an empty stomach may make your nightmares worse or more intense, but it doesn’t actually cause them. Going to bed hungry is a huge topic of debate among nutritionists. There’s even debate about the weight loss aspect. Some studies show that there aren’t many negative physiological effects of going to bed on an empty stomach, or grabbing a midnight snack. But there’s no doubt that it can create some bad habits. The bottom line is simple: if you’re hungry after bedtime, a late-night snack means extra calories that you probably won’t burn during the night. And the desire for a late-night snack may also point to other bad eating habits. If you’re hungry at night, this means that you didn’t eat enough during the day. It may also mean that your meals weren’t balanced. We all love grabbing a snack when we watch TV at night, or if we’re on our laptops or other devices. But this can cause a vicious cycle of eating at the wrong times, and being hungry at the wrong times. This will throw off our metabolic processes, and make for less sleep, low energy, and grouchiness in the end. Did you get that? grouchiness The key is balance and consistency. Indulging in a midnight snack occasionally is perfectly fine, but don’t let it become a bad habit. Avoid midnight hunger by eating regular, healthy, and protein-rich meals during the day. Meals and snacks that are high in protein will keep hunger at bay longer. Snack on things like nuts or bananas. Make sure your meals are properly portioned, too. Keep in mind that all of this also depends on the individual; if you’re trying to lose weight, talk to your doctor or nutritionist. Keeping your meals in balance will do the same for the body, which makes for better sleep, higher energy, and a happy mood! Well, now I’m hungry! How about you? What’s your favorite midnight snack?