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The Disadvantages of Sleeping Immediately After a Meal

author image Brynne Chandler
Emmy-award nominated screenwriter Brynne Chandler is a single mother of three who divides her time between professional research and varied cooking, fitness and home & gardening enterprises. A running enthusiast who regularly participates in San Francisco's Bay to Breakers run, Chandler works as an independent caterer, preparing healthy, nutritious meals for Phoenix area residents.
The Disadvantages of Sleeping Immediately After a Meal
Man holding a plate of food near buffet table Photo Credit: webphotographeer/iStock/Getty Images

The idea that anything you eat just before bed turns immediately to fat is not true, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but there are good reasons for not sleeping right after a meal. While you’re napping, your body is hard at work digesting that last meal, and this can lead to problems ranging from indigestion to a possible increased risk for a stroke.

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Weight Gain

When you eat is not nearly as important as how much you eat. In order to lose weight, you must burn off more calories than you take in. it doesn’t matter if you take all of the extra calories in first thing in the morning or last thing at night. Eating late at night has other dangers, including the impaired judgment and weakened willpower than can come with being tired. When you’re hungry at midnight, taking the time to make a salad may not be as appealing as reaching for the ice cream or finishing the leftover pizza. Making unhealthy decisions right before going to sleep means that you have no chance to burn off those extra calories.


Lying flat on your back right after a large meal may feel good at first, but while your body is resting, your digestive system in hard at work. Heartburn is caused by an excess of stomach acid, which results in a burning sensation that spreads up from your stomach into your chest and sometimes up into your throat. It can also be accompanied by burping. This can make it difficult to get a good night’s sleep.

Acid Reflux

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, also called GERD or acid reflux, is caused by the valve between your stomach and esophagus not closing all the way. This allows stomach acid to back up into your throat, which causes a burning sensation. Lying down flat on your back right after a meal can aggravate this condition. Left untreated, the stomach acid washing up into your esophagus can damage the mucous membranes.


Going to sleep right after a meal can increase your chances of having a stroke, according to a study done at the University of Ioannina Medical School in Greece. The study, which focused on 500 healthy people -- 250 who had previously experienced strokes and 250 who were diagnosed with acute coronary syndrome -- found that those who waited the longest between eating and sleeping were at the lowest risk for stroke. Theories differ as to why, but they include the idea that acid reflux is more likely to cause sleep apnea, which is linked to strokes. Another theory is that the act of digestion and its effects on your blood pressure, blood-sugar levels and cholesterol count may affect your likelihood of having a stroke. More studies are needed to confirm this.

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