A little bit of popcorn or pretzels in the evening… it was fun. And evening snack as you relax is kind of normal.
Do you even know why you are snacking?
But is it healthy?
Turns out that nighttime snacking might be doing more harm to you than you think.
Why Do We Snack At Night?
For most people, it's boredom. Or routine. You couldn't decide what to do and then you just grab a snack.
It's a habit you created to snack at night. Something a little bit tasty between dinner and bedtime became an indulgence. Over time, cheap snacks such as popcorn and pretzels started to dominate the evening. Unfortunately, these late-night snacks provide no nutrition or health value.
The hardest part about curbing nighttime snacking is breaking the habit. Most people don't actually need to eat or even want to eat in the evening – it's just a habit to do it.
Let's take a look at how to break the habit.
When Should You Stop Eating?
Ideally, you should have nothing to eat after it gets dark. And you should have your last food at least 4 hours before you go to sleep. That allows your stomach contents to empty (and reduces reflux at night).
Your digestive system starts to shut down mid-afternoon and goes completely quiet when the sun goes down. So, although some food passes through your digestive system overnight, it's a much slower process.
Your body preparing for sleep begins slowing down specific systems and ramping up others. Your digestive system goes to sleep when you do.
But one of the other problems arises because of that slowing down. Your immune system changes how it works between day and night, as do specific processes in your brain. Because your digestive system slows way down, your immune system can focus elsewhere in your body, cleaning up rogue viruses and bacteria.
When you snack at night, you're delaying the time your digestive system slows down. That means your immune system has to focus in two places at once. That can start straining your immune system as it doesn't get the rest and rejuvenation it needs.
And because many nighttime snacks are based on wheat, dairy, and processed foods, your immune system needs to ramp up to fight this stuff in your digestive system.
What Late Night Snack Does To Your Weight And Waist Line
During sleep, your body doesn't burn nearly as much energy. That means the food you do eat goes directly to fat storage. This is especially true for processed foods based on wheat, they're usually very high in sugar, and those sugars make you fatter quicker.
Simply cutting out nighttime snacks has helped many people lose weight.
How Nighttime Snacking Ruins Your Sleep
Since your sleep depends on a series of hormones, particularly melatonin, doing something to change means you're not going to get good sleep.
When you eat at night, it stimulates a dose of insulin. That hormone insulin works with cortisol, your stress hormone, and dopamine, your feel-good hormone.
When you feel good, you feel a little bit more awake.
When cortisol is running around in your system, it increases your heart rate, your blood pressure, and your alertness. Unfortunately, it also suppresses melatonin production.
The churning of your digestive system can keep you awake, too.
Eating late at night might make you feel heavy and dragged down, and it's not going to allow you to get a good night's rest.
Why Your Mental Health Suffers When You Eat Late At Night
Because of those hormones, you can actually develop a dependent cycle on sugary foods and late-night eating that can increase depression. When you artificially stimulate dopamine production by eating something sweet, you begin craving sweets to get the artificial rush.
After a while, that develops an addiction, and through addiction – depression.
Not to mention that you're expanding your waistline because of the snacking, and that can create self-esteem issues.
What You Should Do Instead
Snacking at night is not healthy, to avoiding any food after dinner is your healthiest way to go. Occasionally, your body can handle a late-night snack, particularly if it's a special occasion, but not regularly.
The best way to avoid snacking is to set a strict time limit for no snacking after dinner or at least 4 hours before you go to bed. It may take a little bit for you to get used to, but your body will thank you in the long run.