About eight hours of sleep a night is more than enough and keeping a healthy sleep schedule allows the body's circadian rhythms to stay in sync and keeps a range of metabolic and physiological systems running smoothly.
Northwestern University scientists examined 52 adults on their sleep and dietary patterns. More than half of the participants were normal sleepers, meaning that the midpoint of sleep occurred at or before 5:30 a.m.
Late sleepers (44% of the sample) got less sleep and went to sleep later, consuming more calories at dinner and after 8 p.m., ate more fast food, drank more high-calorie soft drinks and had lower fruit and vegetable consumption. Overall, late sleepers consumed 248 more calories per day than normal sleepers.
The late sleepers also tended to eat less in the morning, that steeply increased their caloric intake in the afternoon and evening. It's not clear, however, whether the late sleepers ate more unhealthy foods at night because they preferred them or because they had limited choices of food at later hours.
Dr. Phyllis Zee, and study author stated:
"When sleep and eating are not aligned with the body's internal clock, it can lead to changes in appetite and metabolism."
Some people who complain about bloating never realize that it's from the gas and food particles left over from improper digestion. This can be avoided if you cut down the late night snacking. Eating late at night also forces the body to use its energy on digestion. One of the primary functions of sleep is to help you recuperate from the day. You want your body to be as relaxed as possible so you can wake up energized.
A popular online dieting forum lists the following nine ways to curb you late night eating practices:
- Be sure to eat 3 good meals during the day with 1 or 2 between meal snacks. Most people try to eat too few calories during the day only to binge late at night. A good insurance policy is to eat most of your calories before 6 PM.
- When you feel the urge to eat late at night, try drinking 2 or more cups of water. You can also make a cup of herbal tea sweeten with honey or artificial sugar. Hot liquids have a soothing effect on emotions and appetite.
- Remind yourself that it's normal to feel hungry late at night due to habitually eating late. Breaking this habit is like learning to quit smoking. Remind yourself of your goal to lose 20 or 30 pounds and the key to losing this weight is to STOP late night eating.
- Much of late night eating after dinner can be avoided by hiding the junk food. Put foods that you're prone to eat late at night out of sight. Better yet, don't buy junk food at all, though this may not be possible if you have kids.
- Suck on hard candy. Most hard candies have only a few calories and they give you the satisfaction of snacking.
- Keep a written copy of your diet plan in view, which will keep your goal of losing weight firmly fixed in your mind. The temptation to snack late at night will not be as great if you don't give into the urge for several weeks.
- Some people have great success by simply brushing their teeth late at night. This method has been known to curb late night eating for many people.
- The most vulnerable time for eating late is 1 hour after dinner right up to bedtime. Keep your life interesting by working on a favorite hobby and NOT watching TV. The ads on TV can subconsciously trigger the impulse to eat. Boredom is your biggest danger to late night eating.
- Psyche yourself for the battle. You know that you will feel tempted to snack late at night. It's an artificial feeling that will go away when you go to bed. The next morning, you probably won't be hungry but eat breakfast anyway. It's the most important meal of the day.
Sources: The Journal of Obesity and DietForum.com