Can’t seem to lose those last few pesky pounds? You may want to try getting in some more shut-eye.
Credit: Getty: PhotoAlto/Frederic Cirou

For a long time, health experts believed that eating after dinner, and especially late at night, could pose unwanted consequences on dieting and weight loss. But new research suggests those effects may actually stem from not getting enough sleep. A study, which was conducted by researchers at Okayama University in Japan and recently published in Nutrition, Prevention & Health, compared the relationship between eating or fasting before bed on one’s health.

Researchers found that eating a last meal at least two hours before bed wasn’t associated with any long-term differences in blood glucose levels in healthy adults. The study also suggested that regularly getting more sleep could be a better solution than dieting, especially when it comes to preventing chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.

“Short sleep durations and sleep deprivation are related to unhealthy eating habits and impaired glucose metabolism,” researchers wrote. Inconsistent sleep patterns were also found to be associated with obesity more than those who ate right before going to sleep.

The study analyzed two years of data collected from 1,573 healthy adults and seniors with no preexisting conditions living in Okayama, Japan. Over 60 percent of those studied were women, and two-thirds of these respondents were over 65 years old and retired.

Other factors included in the study focused on whether or not people smoked, if they were active, if they ate quickly or slowly, how much weight they had gained since turning 20 years old, how much alcohol they drank, and whether or not they skipped breakfast.

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It's important to note that this study's findings are correlated, and avoiding eating right before going to sleep is still considered healthier for you. But recent research could support the notion that having a certain bedtime snack may actually be beneficial. Eating 30g of protein within 30 minutes of falling asleep has been suggested to boost muscle quality, metabolism, and overall weight management, according to a British Journal of Nutrition study published late last year.

Snacking on a protein-rich food like cottage cheese could aid your diet, but it seems that sleep is playing a much larger role in our health than researchers originally thought. A slew of new research suggests those who don’t get at least 7 hours of sleep each night eat worse diets, and one study in particular suggests that sleeplessness could greatly increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.