Eating Before Bed & Digestion

If you eat right before going to bed, your food will still digest, but you could experience uncomfortable symptoms. When you lie down after eating, the food and digestive juices in your stomach press against the bottom of your esophagus, which can cause heartburn, acid reflux and indigestion. Choosing foods that digest quickly and easily to eat before bed can help prevent these problems.

Eating before bed can sometimes have consequences.
Credit: Svetlana Braun/E+/Getty Images

Heartburn, Acid Reflux and Indigestion

Lying down for bed too soon after eating can cause heartburn and acid reflux. Indigestion typically happens from overeating, eating too fast or eating foods high in fat. You should give your body three or four hours to digest your food before you go to bed. Eat smaller meals and stick to foods that digest more quickly. Also, try sleeping with more pillows to prop you up so that your upper body is at an incline. This way, your digestive juices will flow downward instead of into the esophagus. If you're getting acid reflux, avoid acidic foods before bed, including citrus fruit, tomatoes and spicy foods.

Eating at Night for Easy Digestion

To avoid heartburn, acid reflux and indigestion at night and prevent potential bloating in the morning, eat foods that are quicker and easier to digest. Fatty foods sit in the stomach for hours after you eat them. These include fried foods and fat-rich desserts like ice cream. Foods high in protein, such as red meat, also digest slowly. The other type of food that takes a long time to digest are foods high in fiber, such as vegetables and whole grains.

Eating to Promote Sleepiness

If you have difficulty falling asleep when you eat before bed, avoid caffeine and stick to foods that increase serotonin levels. Caffeine keeps you awake by stimulating your nervous system. Chocolate contains small amounts of caffeine, and coffee, tea and soda contain higher amounts. Serotonin is a hormone that promotes sleepiness. When you combine foods rich in the amino acid tryptophan with carbohydrates, you get a natural sedative effect because the body increases serotonin production. Some tryptophan-rich foods include spinach, halibut, egg whites, pork and turkey.

Meals and Snacks Before Bed

Some foods that will increase serotonin production to help promote sleepiness at night include dairy products, granola and popcorn. Choose foods low in fiber, such as meat, dairy products, refined grains and fruit, especially if you're having a heavier meal before bed. Since fat also takes longer to digest, opt for lean meats, avoid red meat and choose fat-free or reduced-fat dairy.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
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