Sleep and hunger: What to do if we’re hungry at bedtime
Have you ever been in that situation where, you’re finally all comfy and cosy in bed ready to drift off, and all of a sudden you hear an awful growling? Yep, the nighttime stomach rumble - we’ve all been there, haven’t we? It’s not uncommon if the feeling of hunger keeps you awake at night, but the last thing we want to do is get up and prepare some food. It’s late, we’re sleepy, not to mention the struggle to fall asleep when we’re feeling bloated! So what are we supposed to do? Read on to hear The Sleep Geek’s advice.
‘When it comes to eating before bed,’ James says, ‘us sleep experts can be a pesky bunch as we often give advice that can, on the face of it, sound conflicting.’ Ugh, annoying isn’t it? And because of this, James tells us that he wanted to take a deeper dive into the relationship between hunger and sleep.
James, what’s the reason we struggle to fall asleep when we’re hungry?
‘When talking about sleep, I often take it back to our evolution as humans and the part that plays in sleep. As an animal, we need to feel physically and emotionally secure to be in the right state to fall asleep. Many things can impact this state: stress, anxiety, temperature, comfort and also hunger.
Think about it, if we are hungry then we could be at risk, because if we don’t quell that hunger and eat something, ultimately we could die. This switches your body and brain into work mode, looking to solve the problem and therefore you cannot get into the relaxed state - to drop your heart rate and your core temperature - to fall and stay asleep.
However, we also need to remember that eating too much too close to bedtime is also not good for our sleep. Heavy and/or spicy food is hard to digest, and if our body is digesting food, then it again is in work mode and your body is not ready for sleep. It particularly impacts on the ability of the body to drop its core temperature, (yep, the meat sweats are real!) and being too hot makes it particularly difficult to sustain sleep. Every time we come out of our sleep cycle whilst digesting food we are likely to wake.’
So what can we do when we feel hungry at bedtime?
James suggests that if we do feel hungry before bed, then consider making a light snack packed full of slow releasing energy. Some of James’ favourites are peanut butter on granary toast, or maybe a bowl of porridge with a few slices of banana.
Final thoughts: Hunger doesn’t have to be something that we fight with the thought of at bedtime. In order to fall asleep soundly we need to listen to our bodies and make sure we are giving it the things that it needs to wind down for sleep. Something like feeling hungry - or even stress or anxiety - will inevitably stop us from falling asleep because our bodies aren’t in the right conditions to drift off. And how can we say no to PB on toast anyway?!