Sometimes a midnight snack hits the spot. Once in a while, giving in to the late-night munchies does limited harm. When it becomes a habit, it’s time to curb it.
Common reasons why people snack late at night are:
- Eating disorders
- Disrupted bedtime routine
The human body is not a machine, although it’s a feat of immaculate engineering. Bodies remain susceptible to disruptions. Grazing during the daytime is bad enough; grazing late at night has more negative effects.
Common snacks that midnight snackers enjoy include:
- Spicy foods
Addressing the reason for the late munching allows the snacker to find ways to change the behavior. Once it becomes a habit, it impacts other facets. For example, snacking into the late hours means that you’re eating when you should be fast asleep.
As it is, disrupted sleep patterns cause weight gain. Adding empty calories on top of it makes it more difficult to shed them.
If something is happening under the surface, the grazing is a sign that requires your attention.
Let’s look at five negative effects of night-time snacking.
1. Weight Gain
An individual who overdoes it with the midnight grazing will notice that they gained weight. More importantly, the favorites to munch on often have empty calories.
Foods that have empty calories contain no nutritional value. They contain plenty of salt, sugar, or fat and don’t contribute anything positive to the body. Plus, some people know that they should not eat these items. When they do, they feel guilty afterward.
The foods with the highest empty calories include:
- Soft drinks
- Junk food
- Fast food
Soda earns the top spot as it contains more sugar than cookies. In addition to the empty calories, individuals consume a beverage that eats away at their teeth.
Cakes and donuts pair well with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate. However, they will go straight to the hips or gut.
If a craving takes you over, consider reaching for nuts, yogurt, or popcorn to satisfy it.
2. Sticks to Teeth
Most people reach for something satisfying when they get the munchies. Thus, they reach for over-salty or over-sugary foods. The top midnight snack is leftover pizza.
After the satisfying graze, most people go to bed without brushing their teeth.
Even if this happens once, the leftover particles in between teeth or on the gums can lead to bleeding of the gums, cavities, and discomfort. Without realizing it, food particles can hide in the crevices of the molars.
Drinking soda, sports drinks, and hot chocolate cover the teeth in sugar. The longer the sugar sits on the teeth and crevices, the more damage it does. The drinks also mix with the bacteria and can lead to periodontal disease and the need for root canals.
If you snack at night regularly, ensure that you visit your dentist once every six months. The teeth cleaning keeps them healthy and free of buildup, cavities, and gum disease.
It’s a good time for your dentist to spot other issues such as teeth grinding. You might snack at night because you feel anxious. Anxiety also causes teeth grinding.
Some patients find out that they benefit from a daytime mouthguard when they least expect it.
3. Increase Health Problems
Going to sleep with an extra dose of sugar or salt regularly will also catch up to your health.
Health problems that can result from night-time snacking include:
- High blood pressure
Consuming empty calories without burning some of them off causes the bad stuff to accumulate in the arteries. When high blood pressure combines with high cholesterol and diabetes, the combination leads to major health problems.
Moreover, individuals must consider their age and family health history.
Incorporating exercise into a daily routine is essential to stave off the threat of cardiovascular episodes.
Exercise helps maximize the flow of oxygen and blood throughout the body. Plus, it burns off the extra sugar that can cause insulin to spike.
4. Broken Sleep Patterns
If you go to sleep at a regular hour and wake up to snack, it indicates that you have a broken sleep pattern.
Some people work graveyard or evening shifts. Therefore, they go home, take a nap, and eat a few hours later. Then, they go back to sleep.
College students pull all-nighters. Thus, it is common for them to eat while studying at midnight. The Freshman 15 kicks in for several reasons – midnight snacking is one.
Ensuring that you have a regular bedtime routine can fix the impulse to snack at odd hours.
For adults, a bedtime routine lasts between half an hour to one. It should include activities that settle you in for the evening such as cleaning up, reading a book, and unplugging.
Those who feel hungry at this point should restrain themselves and try to fall asleep. You’ll wake up hungry in the morning, and you need to eat breakfast anyway.
5. Potential for Eating Disorders
Once midnight grazing becomes a habit, the individual sets themselves up for potential eating disorders. The other side of the coin is that they already have an eating disorder so they snack.
Even if you opt for a healthy snack, you don’t give your body time to digest it and burn it off. Since you go back to sleep, the food sits in your stomach. Those who gain weight and can’t break the pattern might resort to drastic measures.
To prevent an eating disorder or an existing one from getting worse, evaluate your daytime diet.
Do you eat enough? Is your diet too restrictive?
In worst-case scenarios, snacking is a sign of binge eating.
Some meal plans allow for slight cheating to prevent cravings. Others incorporate snacks by making the meals smaller.
Therefore, consider scheduling a consultation with a professional in the health or medical field. Your primary physician is a good start.
Everyone has snacked late at night a few times in their lives. The concern kicks in when it becomes a habit. Something is happening that requires attention. Whether you’ve developed the habit through boredom, disrupted sleep patterns, or stress, take a moment to analyze the situation and fix it.