How important is it to stop eating two hours before going to bed?

Bob Greene
Bob Greene on behalf of The Best Life
There's ongoing debate whether late-night calories trigger weight gain. Some studies have not found any connection, except among those who are obese. However, a study presented at the American College of Sports Medicine in 2005 found that eating between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m. is a contributing factor to weight gain among college-age men and women. Researchers noted that every 100 calories consumed during this period resulted in 0.25 pound of weight gain for subjects over a 12-week period.

If you’re overweight and racking up many of your excess calories in the hours between dinner and bedtime, then stick to this rule: Don't eat at least two hours before bedtime. The two-hour window not only helps you cut back on calories, but it also allows your body to fully digest any food so you won't go to bed on a full stomach, which may interfere with your sleep. Plus this helps shift most of your calorie intake to the beginning of your day, when you need the most energy to run, walk, work, and live. You don't need much energy at night when you’re sleeping, so why take in the extra calories?

But what if you’re hungry before bedtime? While it’s OK to be a little hungry - that sets you up to eat three nutritious meals, including a proper, healthy breakfast, the next day - you don’t want to be so hungry that you can’t sleep.  If that’s the case, opt for a filling, yet low-calorie snack, like a cup of lentil soup, a banana with 2 teaspoons nut butter, or a cup of hot chocolate (make with skim milk) or a thin slice of bread spread with a teaspoon of butter or 0 trans margarine, such as Bestlife Buttery Spread. Or fill up with a warm beverage like herbal peppermint or chamomile tea, which can also act as a sleep aid.

Try not to make this nighttime snack a habit though. Start fresh the next day and remember to close the kitchen at least two hours before bed.

If the urge to eat is not a result of hunger, but rather a way to calm yourself down after a stressful day, or to try and cope with other emotions, then you must find other ways to deal. Taking a walk, listening to music, reading a magazine or book, or taking a bubble bath are all great ways to nurture yourself.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.