Could Late Night Snacking Be Killing You?
Don’t you just love the late night hours? Finally, you have time to surf on your tablet or catch up on your favorite television show. Now, how about a little snack? If you find yourself craving a midnight snack or frequently eating late at night, then this article is for you!
New studies show that late night snacking can not only cause weight gain – but can impair your memory, and even create high-cholesterol and diabetes.
Could You Have Night Eating Syndrome?
We promise it is real. Back in 1955 Professor Albert (AJ) Stunkard of the University of Pennsylvania and author of nearly 500 publications on obesity and eating disorders, founded what he termed as night eating syndrome (NES). Night eating syndrome occurs when over 25% or more of the total daily calories are consumed after the evening meal – two more times per week.
The symptoms of Night Eating Syndrome also include:
- Lack of morning hunger
- Disruption in the sleep-wake cycle
- Urges to eat in the evening as a comforting tool or to help one fall asleep
- Eating because one is depressed, bored, suffering from psychological distress or feels low self-esteem
Nearly 16% of obese people have NES and nearly 42% of gastric bypass candidates were found to have NES.
Nighttime Snacking and Its Effects on Your Health
The Obesity and Diabetes Clinical Research Section, National Institutes of Health, in Phoenix, Arizona studied 94 volunteers in 2008. Fifty-five of the participants were nighttime eaters.
Food preferences were taken in account and the group was given free access to food in refrigerated vending machines whenever they wished. The only restriction was that all participants had to be in bed by 11PM, but they could get up and roam around whenever they wanted.
The study found that 36% of the participants were nighttime eaters. These late night snackers ate between 436-690 calories between the hours of 11PM and 5AM. Carbs made up the bulk of the calories consumed at 61% and protein at around 9%.
The female participants in the study in addition to being nighttime eaters had higher binging scores.
During the follow-up exams the nighttime eaters gained significantly more weight at 13.6lbs versus non-nighttime eaters who gained an average of 3.7lbs.
Per year, this translated to a gain of 6.9% for nighttime eaters and 2.3% for non-nighttime eaters.
By disrupting the bodies circadian or natural 24 hours rhythms instead of restricting eating to an 8-12 hour window, nighttime snacking doesn’t just create weight gain, it can also impair your learning abilities and create memory problems.
Sleep aids in memory consolidation and improves the ability to perform certain memory tasks.
When sleep is interrupted your memory process can’t encode, consolidate, or retrieve information learned earlier in the day. This has a cumulative effect on your memory and over time can prevent you from learning new tasks and impair overall cognitive performance.
Change It Up! Create New Habits Now
These studies show that late night snacking does more than just expand your waistline. But, you can change this unhealthy behavior over time.
Try to cultivate one of these new habits each week and you will start to see a transformation in how you think and feel in no time!
Eat a big breakfast. Prof. Daniela Jakubowicz of Tel Aviv University found that metabolism is impacted by the body’s circadian rhythm. So, the time of day that you eat affects the way you process food.
She discovered that people who eat their largest meal of the day at breakfast are much more likely to lose weight than those that eat a large dinner. It also significantly lowered risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol.
Relax your mind before bed. Allow yourself one hour of uninterrupted playtime (watch your favorite show or read your latest book). If you tend to worry about what has happened during the day at night then create a small task list for the next day. Limit it to no more than three items. Try this 5 minute meditation technique before you crawl into bed.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, lonely, or unsettled before bed, then take the time to journal your feelings in a notebook. Once you are done visualize the positive aspects of your life and how you create more positive moments.
Train your brain to go to bed earlier and at the same time every night. You once had a bedtime…make restful uninterrupted sleep a priority. Try to disconnect one hour before bed and keep your bedroom as dark as possible.
Light affects your ability to fall asleep.
If you must do something then listen to classical or music without words, there are tons of great applications that have a variety of ambient sounds from white noise to raindrops on trees. Pick one to help you relax.
Let’s take a tip from our great-grandparents. Their good bedtime habits can help us today. By limiting eating to an 8 to 12 hour period like they did and going to bed a little earlier each night, you can prevent memory loss, high cholesterol, diabetes, and easily shed excess weight.