Late night meals and night time snacking is an inherent part of life nowadays. Thanks to erratic work routines, movie nights, parties or late study, there’s always a temptation to eat late at night. But Science tells us that grazing on popcorn or having tummy-full of meals late night is bad for your health. Here are the reasons why you should avoid late night eating:

Why Is it Bad to Eat at Late Night?

Your body follows its own in-built clock called the Circadian Rhythm that impacts everything from your energy levels to metabolism and the way organs function. Your body is designed to be awake and eat during the day and gradually wind up through late-evening to eventually sleep at night.

So, if you disrupt this pattern and natural rhythm by working late night, being exposed to light or eating large meals or junk food at night, it can interfere with several functions of the organs and breed trouble.

Six Harmful Effects of Late Night Eating

1. Altered Hormone Levels

Eating very late at night can intrude with optimal hormone secretion in the body and make it hard for you to fall asleep. The body has a hard time managing glucose at night and if there is a glucose overload due to the food or snack that you just consumed so late, it might not be able to respond by secreting the right levels of insulin.

It also alters both hormones Ghrelin that stimulates appetite and Leptin which keeps you satiated.

2. Inflammation

When people eat more in the night they tend to have high markers of inflammation. In one study for each 10 percent increase in the proportion of total calories consumed between 5 pm and midnight, there was a 3 percent increase in C-Reactive protein, a major marker of inflammation in the body.

That is why it becomes important to follow the adage – “Eat Breakfast like a king, lunch like a queen and dinner like a pauper”.

3. Weight Gain

When we eat a significant portion of total food intake in the night, there are high chances of gaining more weight and becoming obese. The timing of food is very important to weight management. The calories that you ingest at late hours are more likely to be stored as fat in your body.

4. Impaired Memory and Brain Function

It’s not just your waistline that suffers when you give in to late night cravings, but also your brain. As your body’s internal clock is compromised, it takes a toll on the brain’s ability to learning, concentrating and memorizing.

5. Detrimental for Metabolic Health

The metabolic systems of your body are wired to unwind and rest in the night so that your liver can get to work and help the body to detox. But all that eating too late in the night will not give it the much-needed rest.  Research now shows that eating out of sync with our circadian rhythm can affect the way the body metabolizes lipids.

Eating late is associated with decreased resting energy expenditure. It means the decreased rate of carbohydrates metabolization, decreased glucose tolerance, and increased levels of triglycerides and cholesterol in the body. This, in turn, will increase your risk for insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.

6.Increases your Risk for Acid Reflux

Your stomach will struggle to digest food as you lie in bed, making the food travel back to the esophagus and resulting in acid reflux. In addition, the stomach’s power of digestion or Agni as it’s called in Ayurveda is at a weakened state during the night. Therefore, it’s best to have at least a 3-4 hours gap between eating and sleeping to prevent night-time reflux.

Minimize your Night Time Eating

In order to avoid the ill-effects of late night eating, it is recommended to eat dinner early in the evening and stick to the routine most of the time. If you do feel hungry later and need a snack, choose small portions and opt for high-protein snacks like nuts and fruits which get digested easily as opposed to loading up on carbohydrates. Avoid consuming large meals before bedtime and ensure that the largest meal is during the day time only


If You are a Night Bird or Have to Work at Night 

If you have to be awake during the night, stick as close to regular mealtimes as possible. For instance, eat dinner before you go to work and eat another meal in the morning as your breakfast. Refrain from eating in between and definitely stay away from consuming anything spicy, sugary or caffeinated.

Sometimes, the body mistakes thirst for hunger and this could be a reason why you crave for something to munch late-night. Drink a tall glass of water before you give into it.

Also, cravings for food increase during times of emotional upheavals and stress. Try some deep breathing or rubbing a few drops of lavender oil to help you relax before you reach out for comfort foods.

For years now, it has been said that a calorie is a calorie no matter when you consume it. But with emerging research now, the timing of the calorie is as important. Therefore, aid the body to follow its own natural rhythm and avoid eating late in the light. 

Circadian Cycle in Ayurveda : Follow Your Natural Rhythm


Indigestion in Ayurveda: Recognize Early Signs to Ward Off Many Chronic Diseases