It is bedtime in an hour or two and your tummy starts rumbling with hunger. Do you ignore it and try to sleep? Or satisfy your food cravings by eating something? All of us have battled with this issue at one moment or another.
So is sleeping when hungry bad? The answer is yes. Sleeping when you’re hungry can cause insomnia, slow down your metabolism, and lead to weight gain in the long run. This is why experts believe eating something is better than going to sleep on an empty stomach.
Why Do People Go To Bed Hungry?
If sleeping when hungry is so bad, why do people choose to do just that? People sleep with empty stomachs for several reasons and a few of these include:
- Weight Loss: There are scientific links between eating calories late at night and weight gain. Since there’s little physical activity during sleep, late-night eating can lead to piling on the pounds.
- Difficult Digestion: The body undergoes a lot of stress to digest the food we eat. Eating right before bedtime forces digestion to occur during your sleep. This can interfere with the ability to enjoy a sound sleep.
- Increase Morning Appetite: Many dieters believe that sleeping on an empty stomach increases their appetite in the morning. Since many diets recommend consuming all your calories during the daytime, followers try to skip eating at night.
- Laziness: There are times when you just can’t be bothered to seek food while hungry. By the time you realize, it is too close to bedtime and you have no choice but to sleep with hunger.
- Lowers Insulin Levels: One of the benefits of going to bed hungry is that it lowers the production of insulin and other hormones. This improves your metabolism which can lead to weight loss, immunity against diseases, and improved quality of life.
7 Reasons Why Sleeping When Hungry Is Bad For You
Sleeping with hunger can be terrible for your health in many ways. Sure, a slight level of hunger may be beneficial in some instances. But generally, the drawbacks of bedtime hunger outweigh any potential benefits.
Here are some of the reasons why you should never sleep on an empty stomach.
1. Hunger Pangs and Mental Alertness
Your brains start alerting you to eat whenever you’re hungry. This occurs in the form of hunger pangs which can be so uncomfortable that you begin to look for food.
Going to bed on an empty stomach increases your chances of experiencing these hunger pangs. The symptoms can be more severe at night and may interfere with your ability to get a good night’s sleep in a variety of ways.
Firstly, the brain needs to relax to induce sleep and this becomes harder when you’re hungry. Often, you will end up tossing and turning for many hours before drifting off to sleep.
Secondly, the hunger pangs can be so severe that sleeping through it becomes harder and you wake up abruptly. This may happen a couple of times and resuming your sleep after each time becomes harder.
The result is a bad night of sleep which disturbs your productivity and makes you grumpy all day. If you’re serious about getting rewarding sleep, going to bed hungry could be a terrible start.
2. Slower Metabolism
Sleeping with hunger makes a lot of sense from a calorie-deficit perspective. If you’ve been trying to lose weight then you’ve probably come across the notion that eating fewer calories than your body needs is the way to go.
However, have you considered the effects of hunger on your rate of metabolism? Experts believe a healthy metabolism level is critical to an efficient shedding off those extra pounds.
Minimizing your calorie intake is always a good move. But your metabolism rate affects how much body fat you burn within a given time-frame. All things being equal, a person with a higher metabolism rate loses more weight.
Chronic starvation slows down your metabolism which limits the efficiency of your weight loss efforts. Over the long-term, this can cause significant damage to your metabolic processes leading to many side effects.
You could even end up gaining more weight which defeats your purpose of starving in the first place.
3. Muscle Loss
Proper diet and exercise are essential ingredients for maintaining your muscle mass. Studies have consistently proven that going to bed on an empty stomach can lead to overnight muscle loss.
Protein is one of the most important nutrients for the human body. It offers the right framework for skeletal and organ support while boosting the formation of red blood cells. Sleeping when hungry robs the body of the proteins and amino acids required for its core functionality.
In the absence of enough fat, the body resorts to breaking down your muscle mass to manufacture proteins. This can lead to a slow but sure loss of lean muscle and the resultant physical deterioration.
Note that fat loss and not muscle loss is the ultimate aim of weight loss programs. Thus, starving at night can defeat the purpose and lead to undesired results. If you’re bodybuilding or strength training, you cannot afford to starve at bedtime.
4. Lower Energy Levels
Going to bed when hungry can reduce your energy levels in the morning. This is because starvation robs you of the necessary ingredients for maintaining blood glucose levels such as carbs, proteins, and vitamins.
Do you know why you wake up hungry after going to bed without eating? That is the brain’s way of notifying you that you need to refuel your stomach body with food. Hunger pains are a sign that your energy levels have dropped below a certain threshold.
This is when Ghrelin, known as the hunger hormone begins transmitting alarming signals to the brain. Additionally, energy levels plummet when sleep quality suffers. Since going to bed on an empty stomach distorts your sleep, you wake up with extra energy losses.
This can slow you down significantly because low energy levels can limit your ability to undertake physical activities such as exercise. Also, fatigue easily sets in after undertaking minimal work which inhibits your weight loss prospects in the long run.
Low energy limits your potential in terms of productivity. And this can get you into trouble at work because we tend to stay less focused when we’re tired. Here is the article we wrote about sleeping during working hours.
5. Bad Moods
There’s an old saying that a “hungry man is an angry man”. The truth is we tend to be more irritable when hungry which can cause our relationships to suffer. Many of us have experienced that in one form or the other.
Enjoying quality sleep the night before can make you feel cheerful in the morning. But, going to bed hungry can prevent you from getting blissful sleep. This means you probably woke up a few times and couldn’t get the amount of rest you need which can make you irritable at the slightest provocation.
Lashing out at the people closest to you is very common when you’re in a bad mood. This can put a strain on your personal relationships with family members, co-workers, clients, and business partners.
6. Weaker Immune System
The immune system is the main platform for fighting off against diseases. It thrives when supplied with the right quantity of food nutrients and sleep.
Proteins, healthy fats, and vitamins from your diet offer the necessary ingredients for the immune system to stay in shape. It also operates well when the body receives enough sleep.
Unfortunately, starving overnight robs the the immune system of both requirements. This affects the body’s natural immunity over time and exposes the body to the risk of developing serious diseases such as diabetes and cancer.
7. Appetite for Junk Food
Did you know that starving overnight increases your chances of eating junk food in the morning? Yes, you heard that right!
The body starts off its day with a huge demand for energy whenever you skip food the previous night. This translates to an increased hunger like never before. Sometimes, even having a huge breakfast does little to curb your hunger.
This morning rush for calories can also make you crave foods with high-calorie content such as burgers, sodas, and fries. But eating such foods more than offsets any calorie deficit you may have achieved by going to bed hungry the night before.
In the long run, this leads to significant weight gain that defeats your dieting efforts.
Sleeping when hungry can boost your appetite to levels similar to smoking marijuana by morning. Unless you increase your level of physical activity significantly, long-term starvation usually leads to weight gain.
What To Do When You’re Hungry At Bedtime
We’ve established that it is a bad idea to sleep on an empty stomach. So what do you do if you start feeling hungry an hour or two before you jump into bed? Well, here are a few healthy options for you.
1. Drink a Glass of Water
Sometimes, a glass of water is all you need to get rid of your hunger and go to sleep peacefully. The water can suppress your hunger by making you feel full. Also, water helps you stay hydrated and keep up your energy levels.
However, this is only possible when you’re not feeling too hungry. When you’re extremely lucky, drinking water can even give you a tummy ache. A good tip is to rate your level of hunger from 1-10. If it is under 5, a glass of water should do just fine.
However, anything over 5 may require the consumption of more than water.
2. Eat A Snack
Well, eating a light snack is the logical thing to do when you’re extremely hungry in the night. While this snack is not meant to make you full, it can boost your energy levels almost instantly.
It can also diminish your hunger pains so your brain can relax to give you a good sleep. However, be careful about your choice of snack. Avoid snacks full of calories as this can make digestion harder.
Honey, milk, and almonds are some of the best snacks you can consume right before bedtime. Others include chocolates, turkey, fish, apples, and mangoes.
3. Go For A Late Night Walk After A Light Meal
What if you’re starving to the point where a light snack just doesn’t cut it? Well, eating a light meal may not be an entirely bad idea. However, make sure to engage in some sort of physical activity such as a late-night walk after the meal.
If you can stay awake for 2-3 hours before going to bed then a light meal can be a solid option.
- Do you burn fat when hungry? Going hungry may burn fat in the short-term but this weight loss is not sustainable. Over time you gain all the lost weight back and then some. This is why starvation is not recommended if you want to lose weight permanently.
- Do you get sleepy when hungry? The answer is no. A hunger-induced rumbling tummy can force the mind to stay alert which inevitably keeps you awake. This is why you struggle to sleep whenever you’re hungry at bedtime.
- Should you eat after 7 pm? Yes, you can. That is if you plan to sleep 2-3 hours later. In most cases, optimum digestion requires 2-3 hours of staying awake to achieve the desired results.
- Can dehydration be mistaken for hunger? Yes, because sometimes the body gives off the same signals as hunger when it wants water. This is why drinking water still makes you feel full even when you thought it was hunger.
- Is your metabolism slower at night? Yes, it is. However, physical activity can boost your metabolism no matter what time of day it is. This is why taking a walk after eating dinner, for instance, helps digestion and weight loss.
A heavy meal around bedtime is a big no-no because it can enlarge your waistline among other things. However, sleeping when hungry is not the solution either. Note that there are so many drawbacks to going to bed with an empty stomach.
It deprives you of a good night’s sleep, weakens your immune system, and increases your appetite to unhealthy levels. It can also make you gain weight by slowing down your metabolism and reducing your muscle mass.
In fact, given the choice, a heavy meal at night is still better than going to bed with hunger.