Is It Possible To Eat At Night And How Much Sleep To Avoid Weight Gain

Each of us, well, almost everyone, has at least once struggled with the temptation to eat something tasty (often very high in calories) before going to bed, and sometimes even in the middle of the night. And it was not an easy choice. After all, many information sources around us are trumpeting that everything eaten later than 4 hours before bedtime (alternatively, “after 6 pm”) will turn into extra centimeters and kilograms. But it’s not that simple.

Reputable medical resources say that weight gain in people who like to eat at night is not related to the number of calories consumed, but to what they ate and when. Scientists say that we want to eat late in the evening or at night because we didn’t eat during the day, or we ate little and not varied (for example, not enough protein or dietary fiber – a traditional bun). To feel full in the evening and not want to eat at night, nutritionists advise eating complex carbohydrates that break down slowly, releasing energy in small portions for a long time. These are dishes made from beans, lentils, and whole grains. They, as well as quinoa (a weed that grows in almost every garden, very suitable for salads and delicious stewed), are rich in B vitamins, which help maintain sufficient levels of the hormone serotonin in the body, which, in addition to creating a feeling of happiness and satisfaction, plays a leading role in falling asleep. And since sleep is given to us to rest external information flows, restore the stability of the internal environment and reboot the brain, if we put ourselves under stress by prohibiting a late dinner or snack, we risk not being able to fall asleep properly and get a good night’s sleep.

Researchers have shown that there is a link between an increase in body mass index (BMI) and short sleep duration. There is evidence that BMI increases if the usual sleep duration is less than 7-8 hours, and increases in proportion to the decrease in sleep duration. Interestingly, it is argued that a reduction in sleep duration leads to weight gain in the future. Moreover, there is evidence that people who sleep 4.5 hours choose 50% more calories from the offered meals or snacks than people who sleep the recommended 7-8 hours. It has also been found that short or interrupted sleep does not let the body know when to stop releasing cortisol (a stress hormone), which negatively affects the health of the digestive system. The extent to which shortened sleep duration affects the release of hormones in the body is being actively studied. For example, it has been found that people who sleep little have an increased concentration of ghrelin (which stimulates appetite) and a decreased level of leptin (which suppresses eating behavior). Over time, this leads to a decrease in energy expenditure and obesity.

Therefore, it is assumed that changes in the regulation of body activity during sleep deprivation are important in the development of hypertension, hyperinsulinemia, and diabetes.

What does it mean? If you don’t satisfy your hunger, it’s hard to fall asleep, and short sleep negatively affects your weight, and if you eat the wrong things at the wrong time, you again accumulate extra pounds. Experts advise eating the following before bed, if necessary: fruit (bananas, cherries), yogurt, chickpea dishes, cereals (oatmeal, buckwheat, lentils), crackers with different seeds (flax, sesame, sunflower, pumpkin).

Okay, let’s think further. If hunger is overcome, then you should probably reconsider your plans for the evening and go to bed so that you get enough sleep and have a good night’s sleep. What does this mean? It means that by the time we wake up, our body should not just sleep for 7 hours (preferably at night), but go through several complete sleep cycles.

Each cycle is a sequence of phases that scientists have identified by analyzing changes in the electrical activity of the brain (electroencephalogram), the state of the senses, and muscles. After a short fall asleep, REM sleep occurs, which is characterized by the synchronization of electrical activity waves (brain neurons switch to a more or less identical mode of operation, so we can say they are really resting). REM sleep has several stages of its own (from 1 to 3). After that comes the so-called REM sleep (rapid eye movement), which lasts about 20% of the total sleep time. During this phase, the brain generates the same electrical activity as when you are awake (for example, when you solve a math problem).

There are three to five of these slow-rapid cycles, lasting 90 minutes each, repeated three to five times a night. During sleep, our body increases the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, which functions to eliminate the effects of activity (or stress) and restore reserves (reduce current energy expenditure and activate the digestive process to absorb new calories).

So when we ask ourselves how much we ate today, let’s first think about how much we slept today. And let’s organize our lives so that we have enough sleep. It will allow us to recover from the previous day and not eat too much the next day.

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Written by Bella Adams

I'm a professionally-trained, executive chef with over ten years in Restaurant Culinary and hospitality management. Experienced in specialized diets, including Vegetarian, Vegan, Raw foods, whole food, plant-based, allergy-friendly, farm-to-table, and more. Outside of the kitchen, I write about lifestyle factors that impact well-being.

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