Eating at night: is it bad for your health?


When hunger pulls us out of sleep, it’s hard to resist the call for a piece of bread, cheese, or a few cookies. But why do we have nighttime cravings? Is it dangerous for health? How to avoid them? The explanations of Véronique Liesse, dietitian-nutritionist.

Food frustration and stress involved
Bad for the figure … and your health
Consultation may be necessary

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Food frustration and stress involved
Even when you’re nice and warm under the duvet, there are times when you want to get out and grab a bite to eat. If this can occur from time to time, but if this behavior is repeated too often, experts give it the name of “nocturnal binge eating” or “nocturnal bulimia”: it is an eating disorder that is characterized by an irrepressible desire to get up at night to eat, even without hunger. The diagnosis arises when this situation occurs more than twice a week and for a minimum of 6 months. This TCA affects both men and women.

Food frustration and stress involved
There are plenty of reasons to get up at night to eat. In the first place, hunger. “take caution when you take your food late or you skip some meals during the day you may undergo hypoglycemia and the body claims its due by waking us up to eat”, explains Véronique Liesse. In this case, this situation is exceptional and in no way pathological.

Another cause: frustration. During the day, some people strictly control their diet, refraining from foods that are too fatty or too sweet. Only, in the evening, the will is slackened and they throw themselves on all types of food. These “cracks” are a source of guilt, and a new day of deprivation ensues to deal with the night’s deviations. A vicious circle is taking place.

“researchers found out that are much reasons that leads to overeating such as stress anxiety or depression
: the foods chosen are often” soft products “such as chocolate, candies or cakes, sources of appeasement”, says Véronique Liesse.

Bad for the figure … and your health
Eating at night is most likely to make you gain weight. Not only will the nighttime intake not be spent since we are not active, but the foods consumed are often bombs of sugar and fat that are added to the calories already consumed before. An American study published in November 2017 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition1 also found that eating when melatonin production peaks, i.e. around 3 a.m., promotes the storage of fat and weight gain.

If this happens rarely, the body will regulate itself naturally over the next few days. But if this behavior occurs too often, it can lead to significant weight gain. As a result, overweight or even obesity, cardiovascular disease, sleep apnea as well as type 2 diabetes. “The body is not made to receive food at night: it will therefore have to, on the move forced, secrete digestive enzymes as well as insulin to cope with this intake. By force, these less effective, insufficient and inappropriate secretions also participate in the development of type 2 diabetes “, adds Véronique Liesse.

Binge eating also plays a role in the quality of sleep: digestion can interfere with falling asleep and lead to insomnia or poor quality rest.

Finally, researchers from the University of California discovered in 2015 that eating at night alters the proper functioning of the brain, in particular learning and memorization abilities: this food intake would disrupt the circadian cycle leading to a reduction in blood pressure. hippocampus, the memory area 2.

Consultation may be necessary
A few tips can help you limit your nighttime cravings:

You had better take your dinner before going to bed at least 2 or 3 hours before
At dinner, focus on vegetable proteins and foods rich in fiber (vegetables, whole grains, legumes), two particularly satiating nutrients, and avoid foods with a high glycemic index such as white rice, white pasta, white bread … which are more likely to cause reactive hypoglycemia a few hours later;
During the day, eat according to your hunger and your desires, without trying to deprive yourself too much or demonize food;
Divide your dinner, such as reserving milk, fruit, or compote for a little later;
Drink herbal tea at bedtime to calm hunger pangs and fill your stomach
If despite everything, the situation persists, it may be necessary to consult a health professional who will help you identify the causes: is it anxiety that prompts you to change at night? Depression? One effective way to treat this TCA is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

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