Is there a particular time that is best to have dinner? My husband prefers that we have dinner at 10 PM just before bed but I always feel like it’s healthier to have our dinner early, around 8:30 PM. So what is the best time and why?
Victoria U, Kibagabaga
It is a very interesting and useful question you have asked. As such meal times for every individual is variable depending on the life style, physical activity and time and quantity of last meal taken.
But ideal time is that what you think, that is well before sleeping time. When you eat early the digestive system has ample time to digest it properly before you sleep. In contrast if somebody eats very late just before sleeping, it is a load on the stomach and intestines and the system does not get any time to rest and rejuvenate.
After eating, if one sleeps, the body is in a prone or supine position, in which the digestive system does not work optimally. Acid of the stomach is not neutralized properly. Even the intestines and colon remain loaded with food. This will result in the person having uncomfortable sensation of bloating and burning sensation in the abdomen, which shall disturb the sleep. One will also feel nauseous or have belching spells during the day. Chances of constipation are more when one eats late in the morning, as bowels do not have enough time to assimilate and evacuate waste fecal matter.
When one eats just before sleeping, there is minimal physical movement. Thus out of the calories consumed at that time, very few are burnt. These tend to get deposited in the body in form of fat, causing and aggravating obesity, particularly fat over abdomen and trunk. This is a risk factor for many diseases like hypertension, diabetes and heart problems.
After having early dinner, one should sit, do something or move about. In all cases, being upright helps in the digestion of food. This will lead to improved sleep because you will not be disturbed in the night by abdominal discomfort and the risk of constipation and other digestive problems is reduced. The calories consumed are utilized before sleeping, thus minimizing chances of obesity.
Considering these advantages of eating early, it is always better to have an early dinner, ideally 2 hours before bedtime. If one does feel hungry around sleep time, he/she can take a light snack, some fruit or soup or milk.
If you are used to having late meals, this is a habit that should be changed as soon as possible.
Specialist - internal medicine Ruhengeri Hospital