Why do I sleep worse after a late dinner?

Marie-Luise Huber
3 min.
Why do I sleep worse after a late dinner?
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Late dinners, long family gatherings with great treats, or those snacks before bed, whatever it is, you feel tired and ready for bed afterwards. But do you really sleep well after a dinner just before bedtime?

Some experts will tell you that it's normal to feel sleepy after eating.

But in fact, it's very likely that a large meal, especially one with lots of carbohydrates, before bed will disrupt your sleep. The reason for this is the unique relationship between food, sleep and your metabolism. 

First of all, falling asleep after a big meal causes digestive problems. This is because an upright posture - whether sitting or standing - is generally better for digestion. 

The way we metabolize food varies at different times within a roughly 24-hour cycle and usually slows down as you get closer to your bedtime. 

When you sleep after eating, your arousal threshold also decreases (making it more likely that something will wake you up) and sleep fragmentation increases (causing you to wake up during the night). So this affects your sleep quality and how deeply you sleep.

Although large meals in the late evening are problematic for the reasons mentioned above, it's important to know that food also has an impact on your sleep. 

Foods that are high in glucose and carbohydrates put you right into the glucose roller coaster, so you feel wide awake because the energy kicks in but you don't need it anymore. 

Plus, that little glass of wine you enjoy with dinner may also add to your sleep.

A consequence of poor sleep is also that you have increased glucose levels the next day and can observe stronger fluctuations. This in turn can cause you to feel ravenous and end up on the glucose roller coaster again. So not only are you tired and unfocused, but you're hungrier. (Have you ever noticed that you are hungrier tomorrow if you eat dinner late?).

So what should you do for better sleep? 

A balanced diet of vegetables and fruits (the latter in the early hours of the day), whole grains, nuts, and lean proteins is thought to help get better quality sleep. A recent literature review from June 2022 shows that a healthy diet is associated with better sleep quality.

We also recommend that you wait at least 2-3 hours after a meal before going to bed.

Find out what works for you with our Hello Sugar program. 14 days to explore your personal response to food, exercise and stress. Find your sweet spot.


Marie-Luise Huber
Luise has spent the last 15 years studying nutrition and guiding people toward healthy lifestyles. Before becoming Head of Nutrition at Hello Inside, she helped parents plan the right lunches for their children. Luise also optimized food ingredients in Central and Eastern European countries. She has helped more than 1000 people of all ages on their weight loss journey. Her favorite tip for balancing blood sugar is exercise, as Luise loves to run, ski or bike. And she loves to bake (not always blood sugar friendly).
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