Inhaling cold pizza by the light of the fridge – what could be better?
Still, it might be time to break the midnight munchies habit.
New research suggests that eating late at night can have surprisingly negative physical and mental effects:
YOU'RE LIKELY TO OVEREAT
People who midnight munch don't experience the same "food high" we get when we eat earlier in the day — and that high contributes to a feeling of fullness, regulating the amount of calories consumed, according to a study by Brigham Young University. Without that reward sensation, the tendency is to eat more food. (And let's face it, if it's midnight, we're more likely to be reaching for ice cream and potato chips rather than broccoli.)
IT MUDDLES YOUR MEMORY...
Snacking when you're supposed to be sleeping can alter the ability to remember things accurately the next day, according to researchers at the Semel Institute at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Most likely this is due to your body's circadian clock, which is affected by day to night changes. "Try to match your light exposure and food consumption periods," suggests study author Dawn Loh.
...AND YOUR ABILITY TO CONCENTRATE
Late-night eating, especially if you're sleep deprived, slows mental reaction times and attention, according to research from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Study subjects who fasted while being limited to just four hours of sleep per night "did not show… performance decline." But sleep-deprived subjects who snacked away "showed significantly slower reaction times and more attention lapses," according to the study.
THE BIG TAKEAWAY?
This all probably confirms what you already suspected: It's best to avoid snacking after dinner, and aim for seven to nine hours of shut-eye a night. Your mind and body will thank you.