Eating late at night is quite tempting and all of us have done it at some point or other in our lives. While catching the occasional midnight snack may not be of any particular problem, making a habit out of it can have serious long term impacts on your health and your overall well-being. There’s a reason all health experts, nutritionists and doctors will tell you to beat the habit of eating late at night or noshing on oily and fried snacks to satiate your late night hunger pangs. The habit may be more destructive for your body than you may have earlier thought. Besides piling on the unwanted pounds of weight, you can potentially harm your body in more profound ways, just by eating at odd hours during the day.
Late-night snacking may be more insidious than just a poor eating habit as it may get addictive and may even develop into a full-blown eating disorder known as ‘Night Eating Syndrome’. This is why we are all advised to consume most of our calories during the daytime, when our bodies are more active and we’re able to burn most of the calories from meals to generate energy. So if you’re a person who is a slave to your midnight munchies, then you must know about these harmful effects of your habit.
Here are some side-effects of eating late at night that everyone must know about:
1. Disturbed Sleep
People who eat late at night also tend to sleep later, which may lead to a disturbed sleep cycle. Additionally, eating late at night has also been found to be the reason that some people may have confusing dreams at night. A 2015 investigation into the subject of how late night snacking affects sleep, lead two Canadian psychologists to discover that University students who indulged in late night snacking were more prone to ‘bizarre’ dreams, which could be due to the gastric discomfort caused by the snacks.
2. Poor Digestion
If you are prone to heart burn and acid reflux, you should probably be re-evaluating your meal timings. Eating a late dinner has been linked to these gastric issues, caused due to poorly digested food which may cause excessive acid in the stomach. This is why people are often advised to have a leisurely walk after eating their last meal of the day, instead of going straightaway to bed.
3. Unhealthy Weight Gain
Your body has a circadian rhythm (body clock) which can be thrown out of sync if you eat meals at odd hours. An out-of-sync circadian rhythm not only affects sleep and causes hormonal imbalances, but may also result in weight gain. This may have something to do with the fact that late night eaters tend to make poor food choices as well. Your body’s metabolism slows down during night time and is not as effective in burning calories as it is during the day time.
4. Increased Blood Pressure
A misaligned body clock may have more serious repercussions including increased risk of heart diseases and diabetes. Studies have linked high blood pressure or hypertension and higher fasting blood sugar levels with the habit of eating later in the night or having dinner way past the ideal time of 7 pm.
5. Poor Mental Health
Ever noticed how you’re more prone to mood swings and irritability when you’re sleep deprived? Since eating late affects sleep, it may also indirectly impact your mental health. Poor sleep quality caused by gastric discomfort and disturbed circadian rhythm may result in increased risk of depression and anxiety.
There are some simple measures that you can take to prevent late night snacking. You can start by throwing out all unhealthy snacks stocked in your kitchen cabinet and fridge, effectively eliminating the temptation. Additionally, ensure that you have a healthy yet filling dinner, so that you don’t feel hungry close to midnight. If you are unable to correct this habit, consult a certified nutritionist or a doctor for more concrete measures.