When Should You Eat Dinner?

dinner time clockEating and sleeping are two of our most basic functions, and they bear an important relationship to one another. Clients and Biggest Loser contestants have often asked me, “What is the best time to eat dinner?” It’s not so much a question of the best time to eat the meal, as it is of when’s best for you.

The time that you eat dinner is not as important as how close it is to your bedtime. If you’re eating dinner too close to your bedtime, you may experience reflux (heartburn), not sleep as well as you otherwise might, or skip breakfast the next morning (this is quite a common pitfall).

It works the other way, too. The proper amount of sleep is important to your meals. Sleep deprivation may actually cause you to eat more to help you “wake-up.” This can cause unwanted weight gain, and may lead to less exercise because you may feel too tired for a workout. Not good.

Eating dinner 2-3 hours before bedtime may help with several common issues:

Reflux (heartburn): When you eat an adequate amount of time before hitting the sack you will likely experience less reflux since 2-3 hours gives your stomach some time to empty before reclining. When your stomach is too full and you lie down, things start to “repeat” on you and you may experience heartburn.

Digestion: Giving yourself 2-3 hours (without snacking) after dinner, and before bed allows for digestion time. This may lead to you waking the next morning feeling a bit hungry — which is a good thing! You will then be less likely to skip breakfast, which is an important meal. Eating a breakfast that contains both carbohydrates and protein may help control overall hunger during the day.

Making the most of your 40 winks: Spacing your dinner time and sleep time by 2-3 hours can actually help you sleep better. However, if you eat dinner at 5 or 6 p.m. and don’t go to bed until 11 p.m. or later, it is important to plan a balanced snack that contains about 150 calories and includes some carbohydrates and lean protein. Your snack, then, should be eaten 2-3 hours before bedtime.

These are some basic guidelines about the optimal time for your nighttime meals, but if you are having trouble sleeping most nights, or are experiencing heartburn often, please consult with your primary healthcare provider or doctor.

© Cheryl Forberg 2016