Can A Big Meal Before Bed Ruin Your Sleep?

We all need good, healthy sleep on a nightly basis, and failure to get it can have serious health consequences. According to Harvard Health Publishing, getting less than six hours of sleep a night can increase our risk of developing health problems like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. One of the worst things we can do for good sleep, we've been told, is to eat a big meal right before bedtime. But is this really true? Does eating too much too late at night really ruin the restful sleep our bodies so badly need?

Well, the Mayo Clinic advises against going to bed hungry or after a big meal, suggesting there's a middle ground here that would allow for some light late-night snacking. In fact, nutritionists say snacking before bed is just fine — provided, of course, you're eating the right kind of foods. As chef Summer Sanders notes, big meals may be bad, but small nutrient-dense snacks can actually help us regulate our blood sugar as we sleep. "I always suggest trying a lean protein, fresh fruit, vegetable, handful of nuts, or a serving of a whole grain," she adds (via The Thirty)

The real reasons a big meal before bedtime is bad

Although an apple may be a good late-night snack, an orange definitely isn't. Per Eat This, Not That, acidic fruits are best eaten earlier in the day, especially for those who suffer from heartburn or acid reflux. Caffeine should also be avoided, not surprisingly, as it makes it harder for us to fall asleep. Alcohol, too, although seemingly synonymous with late night, can have deleterious effects, including fragmented and non-refreshing sleep, if consumed right before bedtime.

While healthy and moderate snacking may be fine before bedtime, almost everyone seems to agree that big meals are a very bad idea, antithetical to the idea of good sleep. But why? A host of reasons, as it turns out. As Business Insider reports, a 2005 study linked late-night meal eating with acid reflux, and a 2013 study of obese and overweight individuals trying to lose weight found late meals made it significantly harder to do so. This was backed up by a 2020 clinical trial published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Did we mention the bad dreams? According to, eating too close to bedtime may also increase the risk of nightmares. Now, that's really scary!