What Can Eating Too Much at Night Do?

You may have heard that it is dangerous or unhealthy to eat after a certain hour in the evening. While this is not necessarily true, binging on a heavy meal or a large, unhealthy snack may affect your sleep, your waistline and your blood sugar levels. Avoid the pitfalls of eating too much at night by spreading out your caloric intake throughout the day, not skipping meals and choosing healthful foods if you are hungry in the evening.

A large snack before bed could lead to weight gain or heartburn. Credit: Wendy Hope/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Interrupted Sleep

A heavy meal or fatty snack right before bed can cause discomfort and indigestion. This in turn can affect your sleep, causing you to wake up several times. If you eat a lot before bed, chances are that you may also drink a lot of liquids. A full bladder can also wake you up at night. To avoid interrupted sleep, do not eat a large snack or meal or drink too much within two hours of bedtime.

Heartburn

If you eat certain foods shortly before lying down, you may develop heartburn, also called acid reflux. Symptoms include a burning feeling in your chest and tasting stomach acid in the back of your throat. Eating too much can cause acid reflux, as can eating foods known to trigger the condition, such as chocolate, citrus fruits, fatty foods and spicy foods. To avoid acid reflux, stop eating two to three hours before bedtime. Also, you may find that raising the head of your bed by placing blocks under the headboard may help.

High Blood Sugar

Raising your morning blood sugar is a concern if you have diabetes. Eating a big snack late at night, especially if it is full of carbohydrates, can not only put you over your calorie allowance for the day, but can cause a high blood sugar reading the next morning. Dr. Maria Collazo-Clavell of the Mayo Clinic recommends choosing a snack such as five baby carrots or a serving of sugar-free gelatin if you are hungry at night.

Weight Gain

Eating too much at any time of day can cause weight gain, which may lead to being overweight or obese. Even if you are not eating much during the day, binging on high-calorie foods at night will add many extra calories to your daily intake. If you consume an additional 500 calories each day over what you need to maintain your current weight, you can gain one lb. per week, or more than 50 lbs. in one year. If you want to have a small to moderate snack at night, choose healthful, low-calorie foods such as low-fat yogurt, fruit or a small whole-grain muffin.

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