Sleeping After Eating: The Do's and Don'ts

Sleeping after eating is what most people experience, especially after a big late-night meal. Digestion requires a massive amount of energy, and if you're already tired, eating will only make matters worse. However, post-meal drowsiness and sleeping right after a meal may have more of an impact on your health than you realize.

Wait 3 Hours Before Going to Bed

sleeping after eating the dos and donts person looking at their-watch close up

Try to break your habit of going right to bed after sleeping by not eating for at least three hours before you go to bed. Of course, you may not have any other option but to eat before bed on some nights, but in the ideal world, you'll wait 3 hours between your last meal and your head hitting the pillow to go to bed.


First, your body slows down when you sleep, so your metabolism may not be able to digest the food adequately. If you're trying to lose or maintain your weight, it's better to avoid sleeping after eating.

A few of the reasons to wait are:

  • Three hours allows the small intestine to have all food moved through it
  • Insulin release following eating impacts circadian rhythm, making it more difficult to sleep.

Avoid Foods That Cause Heartburn and Indigestion

Heartburn and indigestion affect at least 60 million people in the United States alone. If you want to avoid late-night heartburn, you need to avoid fried foods, soda and other foods known for impacting heartburn.

Sleeping position will factor into the equation, too.

GERD is often worse at night when a person lays down because the stomach acid is allowed to enter the esophagus. 

Since lying down can lead to reflux, it's crucial to avoid eating any foods that are triggers for your heartburn. 

And if your stomach isn't empty before bed, it can lead to worse heartburn. If you must eat before bed, it's crucial to eat foods that will keep your heartburn at bay, such as:

  • Whole grains
  • Yogurt 
  • Root vegetables
  • Green vegetables
  • Etc.

However, it's always best to avoid a late-night meal if you have any issues with acid reflux or GERD.

Eat Foods That Promote Sleep

Many people take supplements to sleep better at night, but you can also eat the right foods to have the same effect. A few of the foods that will promote better sleep are:

  • Turkey
  • Cherries
  • Warm milk

In fact, you want to focus on foods that metabolize into serotonin, such as turkey or pork chops, which are filled with tryptophan. 

Don't Drink Caffeine or Eat Foods That Keep You Awake

sleeping after eating the dos and donts close up of a cup of coffee with a spoon

Stimulants aren't good to consume if you plan on having a good night's sleep. Many people drink a cup of coffee and go to bed within an hour. And while you may fall asleep, caffeine is a stimulant that will cause sleep disruption.

A few items that fall into this category are:

  • Alcohol
  • Coffee
  • Caffeinated teas
  • Chocolate
  • Peppermint
  • Spicy foods
  • Soda
  • Energy drinks

Caffeine is known to block adenosine, and this blocking will make it more difficult to sleep and may even lead to insomnia. Caffeine can also lead to more frequent urination, which will cause you to get up in the middle of the night – never fun.

Don't Eat Carbs or High Fat Foods

If you must eat before bed, carbs and fatty foods are going to do more harm than good. For example, if you eat a few slices of pizza and go to sleep, you're going to cause your body to produce higher levels of cholecystokinin.

The body produces this hormone to adequately break down fat and protein in the food.

However, this food can also increase the number of cytokines produced, especially if you eat sugary foods or red meat before bed. Cytokines are responsible for causing inflammation in the body and also make you tired after a meal.

Avoiding these high-fat or carb-heavy foods will help you keep any acid reflux or heartburn that you may have from creeping up and impacting your sleep.

Don't Eat Meals Above 150 Calories

Many people have been told that eating anything before bed isn't good for them. Your metabolism slows when you sleep, and this can cause issues with digestion. However, a study from 2015 shows that a snack of 150 calories or less may be beneficial.

Since the snack is small, it won't lead to weight gain or cause many issues with acid reflux.

Additionally, the nutrients in the snack may help with metabolic health and rebuilding muscle tissue that breaks down during the day. However, consuming anything over 150 calories should be avoided before bed when possible.

Sleeping after eating isn't a good option if the meal is large or it impacts your sleep quality. While a large meal will affect your sleep, a meal under 150 calories (a snack, really) shouldn't cause a problem.

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