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How Long Should You Wait Before Going To Bed After Dinner?

By Dixit Arora +2 more

Eating a late dinner may keep you awake and cause problems with your sleep. Many times, eating at the wrong hour can also result in digestive problems and related signs like heartburn, indigestion, etc. It can also lead to sudden weight gain. There, you must be aware of the right time to eat your meals before bedtime.

How Long To Wait Between Bedtime and Meal

Your body is most comfortable digesting food in an upright position, as it allows for easy digestion. Lying down immediately after eating a light meal for dinner can cause the stomach contents to reflux into the oesophagus, triggering symptoms of GERD and heartburn. This is more likely to happen if your stomach has not emptied by the time you go to bed. 

Usually, it is advised that you wait for about 2-3 hours before going to bed once you have had your dinner. This provides ample time for digestion and the contents in your stomach to move into the small intestine – and reduces the likelihood of various digestive problem symptoms. 

Besides, allowing a couple of hours to elapse before lying down after your least meal can lower your chances of having sleep disorders and gaining weight. 

The Complex Relationship between Sleep and Food

Certain food items such as turkey, fatty fish, almonds, etc. can enhance your sleep quality. These contain high levels of tryptophan – a substance that your body metabolizes into melatonin and serotonin. Both of these facilitate sleep.

Many people develop a habit of binging on unhealthy snacks late in the night – chips, doughnuts, cookies and aerated beverages. Midnight snacking is a sure-fire way to increase calorie intake and gain weight. You must not indulge in unhealthy snacking before going to sleep, as it will harm you in ways more than one.

Did you know?

  • Going to bed immediately after dinner can lead to weight gain. source: ncbi
  • Nighttime caloric intake is not associated with weight gain in female rhesus monkeys. source: ncbi
  • Eating late in the evening is associated with childhood obesity in some age groups. source: ncbi
  • Nighttime eating is commonly observed and related to weight gain. source: ncbi
  • Night eating syndrome is associated with depression, low self-esteem, and reduced daytime hunger. source: ncbi

Foods to Avoid Before Going to Bed

Certain foods, when consumed right before bedtime, can block adenosine – a chemical that helps us fall asleep naturally. Also, make sure you avoid consuming foods that contribute to insomnia. These include –

  • Alcohol

Many people suffering from insomnia or sleep disorders are of the opinion that having a few glasses of wine or whiskey makes them fall asleep faster. However, experts recommended not to follow this ritual for the following reasons

-Alcohol interferes with the natural sleep cycle in the middle of the night reducing the regenerative REM sleep

-Alcohol relaxes the muscles. This can lead to snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. 

-Alcohol plays an impact on the oesophagal sphincter muscle causing it to relax and cause acid reflux. 

  • Heavy Foods

Meals that take a while to digest such as fried foods, and cheesy and meat-based dishes should be avoided for dinner or even late-night snacking. Stick to lightly cooked clean meals.  

  • High Water Content Foods

Refrain from having food with higher water content such as watermelon, cucumber, celery, etc. having to frequently run to the bathroom will hamper the quality of your sleep. Similarly, do not drink too much water before going to bed. 

  • Spicy Foods

Spicy foods are a big nono before bedtime. If you love your pepper or chillies, have it for breakfast, lunch or your evening snack. 

  • Acidic Foods

Acidic foods are also responsible for causing acid reflux which can make getting quality sleep quite difficult. Avoid having citrus fruits or their juices, tomatoes and onions.  

  • Caffeine

Aside from coffee, many soft drinks and chocolates contain caffeine. Having consuming caffeine before bedtime as it works like a stimulant makes you stay awake for longer hours. You should maintain a gap of 5-6 hours from having caffeine-based foods to winding down for bedtime. 

  • Sugary Treats

Sugary drinks, sugary desserts, candies and cereals should not be consumed before bedtime or for dinner.

Moreover, you should also avoid eating sugary foods at night before going to bed. This is because your body uses up a micronutrient like Magnesium to assimilate sugar into the body. Magnesium is needed to help you fall asleep and with a lack of magnesium, sugary foods can keep you awake at night. On the other hand, chocolates contain caffeine which increases brain activity, thereby preventing you from falling asleep.

You should also avoid eating food that is too spicy before going to bed at night. This can lead to a rise in body temperatures that tend to keep you awake longer. Your body generally reduces its internal temperature during sleep and if this spicy food keeps your body temperature higher, it gives signals to your brain that this may not be the right time to sleep. Apart from that, spicy food can often cause indigestion and acidity, which can be yet another reason that prevents a good night’s sleep.


Eating time and sleep habits are important modifiable behaviors that affect metabolic health, but the relationship between food intake and sleep remains incompletely understood. Observational data suggest that late food intake is associated with impaired sleep quality. It is advisable to wait atleast 2 hours after food before sleeping.

Dr. M.G. Kartheeka, MBBS, MD

Foods You Should Eat Before Going to Bed

In case you find yourself hungry a few hours after having your meal, it is recommended that you have a light meal for dinner to satiate your hunger pangs. You can have foods that are easily digestible and low in calories. Examples include –

  • Eggs
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Bananas
  • Almonds 
  • Turkey meat 
  • Chamomile tea 
  • Kiwi 
  • Tart cherry juice
  •  Fatty fish
  • Walnuts

A tip – Playing relaxing music at a slow volume before you sleep can help you fall asleep faster.

Having an early dinner and eating light can be helpful to assist lowering blood pressure, improve digestion, better metabolism and reduce the risk of obesity

Dr. Ashish Bajaj, M.B.B.S., M.D.

The Bottom Line

To live a healthy life, you may need to make some changes to your daily routine for good health. Eat two hours before your bedtime and keep it light to avoid health issues. After all, a good night’s sleep is all-essential for a healthy body.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational/awareness purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional and should not be relied upon to diagnose or treat any medical condition. The reader should consult a registered medical practitioner to determine the appropriateness of the information and before consuming any medication. PharmEasy does not provide any guarantee or warranty (express or implied) regarding the accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality, reliability or usefulness of the information; and disclaims any liability arising thereof.

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