Don’t Let Over Eating Impact Better Sleep

We are entering into a prime stretch of holiday eating. Thanksgiving, work holiday parties, family dinners, new year’s eve, you name it and there’s probably a week where we will have the opportunity to indulge. While it isn’t a bad thing to have a little extra around this time of year (in fact it’s almost a requirement for some families,) there can be an added toll on your health — and your sleep is no exception.

Holiday eating habits not only can hurt your waistline, they can make it more difficult for you to fall asleep. Overeating is a problem, but so are some other ideas that you may haven’t thought about. We came up with a list of ways that you can enjoy the foods of the holidays without having it wreak havoc on your sleep schedule.

Eat Regularly

You may feel like starving yourself if you know you’re going to be having a large holiday meal later, but that’s actually the exact opposite of what you want to do. That sort of push and pull can mess with your metabolism, which in turn can hurt your sleep schedule. A better solution is to eat regular meals — not too much before bed, and not going long stretches without food. This is especially important on the days that you’ll be having that holiday meal.

“Eat regularly scheduled meals and snacks that day, you can still be mindful of building in room for indulgences later on,” says Jessica Katz, a clinical nutritionist. “Eat healthfully and lightly (focus on lean protein and high fiber plant-based foods and veggies), so that you go into the meal with greater control over your food choices.”

Portion Control is Key

While it may be tempting to heap piles of grandma’s lasagna or have another couple helpings of stuffing, those could be the things that keep you up late into the night with another GI issue. Ingesting large amounts of food can take a toll on your body and lead to incomplete digestion and discomfort.

“Indigestion and gas — yes I said that — and the need to unbutton your now too tight pants are the most common symptoms of eating a Thanksgiving feast,” says Suzanne Jezek-Arriaga, author of the book, Nourish to Flourish.  “The average meal takes one to three hours to digest, but a large meal can take up to eight to 12 hours. Your body has to work harder to digest a big meal, which can also raise the risk for gallbladder pain and drowsiness.”

That means that it can still be digesting while you sleep. If you can limit your portions – still enjoying all the food, just less of it – it may lead to a better and more even sleep later on that night.

Timing it Right

If you do want to have a big meal once in awhile (and, to be honest, that’s probably most of us) it’s always better to do it earlier in the day than later. Eating later in the day can lead to all sorts of health problems, including an increased amount of stomach acid leading to acid reflux and other nightly discomforts.

“Timing can affect digestion of a large meal, and in turn, your quality of sleep,” says Katz. “Leave a few hours between the meal and hitting the hay.”

So with these tips, you should be left enjoying your holidays with your family instead of up late worrying about where the antacids are. Remember to enjoy healthfully and responsibly. Your health, and sleep, will thank you.