A quick fridge hunt or a hot cup of coffee before bed might seem like a great idea, but it’s interesting to investigate what effect your midnight hunger pangs have on your sleep. We spoke to our in-house fitness expert from The Transformation, Rohan Mathew, to shed some light.
“Your nighttime eating habits definitely could affect your sleep. Some people have a hard time falling asleep if they don't eat carbohydrates, but for some others, it's just a force of habit – it could also have something to do with your neurotransmitters. However, it’s ideal to avoid eating a very heavy meal right before bed because it affects the quality of your sleep. You can call it a food hangover – you feel extremely lethargic and don’t get the best sleep because of that,” he explains.
For all you coffee addicts who can't do without a cuppa before bed, you can expect to not have the best sleep of your life. “Because coffee is a stimulant, it’s probably going to keep you up,” he says. In fact, according to new research, caffeine consumed even 6 hours before bedtime significantly diminishes sleep quality and quantity – so unless you’re planning to crash study for a test through the night, stay away from the brew.
For those whose mornings are incomplete without this stimulant, here’s how it actually works – “Early morning coffee drinkers may be reaching for that cup of coffee because it raises the cortisol levels in their body, thus successfully waking them up, but what they don't know is that cortisol levels are already high in the mornings, so they don't really need that cup of coffee,” says Rohan. To elaborate, firstly, caffeine tends to interfere with the natural production of cortisol, and secondly, leads to lesser production of the ‘stress hormone’ (aka cortisol), and conditions the body to rely more and more on caffeine over a period of time. “And those who have what we call caffeine dependence – which is like being an alcoholic – sometimes have to struggle with headaches if they don’t get their coffee fix through the day. It could mess with your cardiovascular system and brain to an extent,” he states. Because cortisol levels rise thrice through the day – in the early morning, at midday, and in the evening – the best time to drink coffee, when you’ll get the most of it without it interfering with your body’s mechanisms, is roughly between 10 a.m. and noon, and 2 p.m. and 5 p.pm, so it makes sense to plan your coffee breaks during these troughs.
Coming back to your nighttime eating habits, you heard it – keep your pre-bed meal light and the caffeine away if you don’t want to be tossing and turning all night.