Should You Eat or Drink Late At Night? Learn From An Expert



By: Adebowale BelloFreelance Health Writer, with medical review and editorial support by The Datelinehealth Africa Team.

Plate of African cuisine with a glass of iced cola drink to the side and a digital clock above

Plate of African cuisine with a glass of iced cola drink to the side and a digital clock above.





  • Eating late before bed impacts your sleep and may contribute to poor health if the habit persists.
  • If you must eat late, then eat a light meal that is easy to digest. The meal should be high in protein or high in fat. This stays in your stomach longer.
  • As caffeine is a stimulant with long acting period, experts recommend that to have quality and satisfying sleep nightly, you should stop drinking coffee or any caffeine containing drink by noon.



Picture this; you've just gotten home at 8.30 pm after a long, demanding day of work. You head for the shower, and after all the rituals of drying up and getting into comfortable clothing for the night, you head to the kitchen, contemplating a late-night meal at 9 pm. 


You debate in your mind what you could eat and whether you should indeed eat that late or not, as you recall your experience with sleeping the last time you ate late.



Should you or should you not?


Whether you're craving some noodles, a bowl of fruits or a plate of solid ‘swallow’ like “eba” with vegetables and meat stew, it's important to be aware that what you choose to eat or drink before bedtime can significantly influence the quality of your sleep and your overall health.


For many, food is not just a nourishment but it's a source of comfort and joy, especially after a tiring day. However, what we consume in those precious hours before bedtime can either set the stage for a restful night’s sleep or lead to tossing and turning and poor health if the habit persists.



What Kind of Food or Drink Should You Avoid Before Sleeping?


As food and sleep have very complex relationships, when you know how the body handles food at night, it can help you to make informed choices about bedtime eating.


Roberta Anding, a registered dietitian and assistant professor in the Joseph Barnhart Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, USA  offered some insights on things to avoid before sleeping, in a news release from the institution..


"From a sleep standpoint, you shouldn't eat a big meal at 8 p.m. if you plan to go to bed at 9 p.m. If you are sensitive to caffeine, I would say to stop drinking it around noon," she said.




Anding explains; "Drinking caffeine before bed will impact your sleep. The average person takes about 10 to 20 minutes to fall asleep and if you have caffeine in your system or are sensitive to it, this amount of time can double.” 


As a substantial amount of coffee may remain in your bloodstream nearly 4.5 hours after a drink, she advises that for quality night sleep, you should stop drinking coffee after noon.   


As for food, Anding notes that eating a heavy meal before bed may not always impact your weight gain, but it will impact blood flow and alter your sleep cycles.


“Having a lot of food in your stomach before bed can redirect blood flow to your gut to digest the food, meaning there is less blood flow going to your brain. You need that blood flow to your brain to make sure you go into the different sleep stages." Anding explained. 


Some common African foods and drinks that you should avoid at bedtime include:

  • Spicy meals.
  • High fatty meals like fried foods and full fat dairy.
  • Acidic foods such as citrus fruits, tomatoes and tomato-rich foods.
  • Caffeine containing foods and drinks.
  • Alcohol.


Apart from interfering with your sleep quality, these foods may also cause acid reflux and disturb your sleep through heartburn and pain in your food passage way (gullet)..



What Kind of Food Can You Eat or Drink Before Sleeping?


If you must eat at bedtime, eat  a light meal that is easy-to-digest. “It needs to be something high in protein or high in fat that is going to stay in your stomach longer,” Anding suggests.


Some common African foods which fit into this category include nuts (especially walnut and almonds), small to moderate portions of  Moi Moi, Okpa, Egusi soup, Jollof rice and grilled fish. 


If you feel the urge to have a drink, you can take water, and avoid tea, coffee or alcohol. 



Bottom Line


Don't go to bed starving, but avoid eating late before bedtime.

By making smart choices about what you eat and drink before bed, you can set yourself up for a restful night and wake up feeling refreshed and energized.



Baines T. Can eating or drinking caffeine before bed impact your health? [Internet. 2024 May 14]. Baylor College of Medicine News release. Accessed May 23, 2024. Available from:





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Published: May 24, 2024

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