These Nighttime Habits Can Make People Gain Weight

According to the CDC, over 66.7% of Americans have tried to lose weight at one point. While people might track calories throughout the day, what they do at night can ruin those efforts. Simple habits like using your phone in bed and eating a late dinner might make people gain weight. If you want to burn more fat, learn how to correct these mistakes.

Schedule Enough Rest, And Go To Bed On Time

A woman is asleep in bed.
Gregory Pappas/Unsplash
Gregory Pappas/Unsplash

If you want to lose weight, you should aim to get at least seven hours of sleep. In 2013, a study analyzed how sleep affects obese people. When participants did not get enough sleep, they experienced a higher appetite, slower metabolism, lower insulin tolerance, and higher blood sugar.

The National Sleep Foundation explains that sleep influences hormones. When people lack sleep, their neurotransmitters send out more hunger signals. That is how weight gain directly ties to sleep. At night, go to bed at a time that will guarantee that you get enough sleep.

Never Sleep With The TV Or Light On

A man points the remote at the TV while a woman sleeps on his shoulder.
Yvan Cohen/LightRocket via Getty Images
Yvan Cohen/LightRocket via Getty Images

In 2019, researchers discovered that leaving the TV on while you sleep can cause weight gain. According to the National Institutes of Health, sleeping in light can have health consequences, such as inhibiting your metabolism. Participants who slept with the TV on gained 11 more pounds over five years than those who sleep in darkness.

Although researchers could not confirm why this happens, they believe that it has to do with sleep quality. Light tells the body to stay awake. When people sleep with lights on, their quality of sleep drops, which is linked to metabolism and weight gain.

Eating At Night: More Complicated Than It Sounds

A man eats a snack outside at night.
Chris Benson/Unsplash
Chris Benson/Unsplash

A popular diet myth warns people not to eat late at night, because it will lead to weight gain. But there is not a lot of evidence for this claim. Research has varied; one study on mice found that it causes weight gain, while another on monkeys saw no correlation. In The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a test on humans concluded that nighttime eating caused weight gain.

That said, you should watch what you eat at night. Winchester Hospital says that people tend to overdo late-night eating, not because they are hungry, but because they crave sugary, salty, or fatty foods.

Stop Using Your Cell Phone Before Bed

A man scrolls through his cell phone in the dark.
Taro Karibe/Getty Images
Taro Karibe/Getty Images

Although many people scroll through their cell phones before bed, it is not healthy. At the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior Conference, scientists reported a study done on rats. When rats were exposed to more blue light, they tended to eat more sugar water.

This research can be applied to humans. The more blue light we see from phones or tablets, the more we tend to crave sugar. Also, blue light tends to keep people awake. More sugar and less sleep is a recipe for weight gain.

How Oral Health Connects To Weight

A woman holds up a toothbrush with toothpaste.
BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images
BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images

Did you know that dental care is directly connected to weight gain? In 2017, Thai researchers examined the differences between overweight people and those with a healthy BMI. Overweight participants tended to have worse oral health than the others. In fact, obese people were 5.9 times more likely to have gum disease.

Microbial science professor Yiping Han explains that inflammation is the cause. The more inflammation is in your body, the more likely you are to get sick. He does not “actually know if this is a one-way or two-way street.” Regardless, remember to brush your teeth before bed.

Do Not Eat Dinner Too Late

A woman eats dinner at a restaurant late at night.
Imam Muhaimin/Unsplash
Imam Muhaimin/Unsplash

While eating light snacks at night will not affect your weight, large dinners will. In June 2020, the Endocrine Society conducted a study on late-night dinners. When participants did so, they had a lower glucose tolerance and did not break down fat as efficiently.

“On average, the peak glucose level after late dinner was about 18 percent higher, and the amount of fat burned overnight decreased by about 10 percent compared to eating an earlier dinner,” said author Dr. Chenjuan Gu. If possible, finish dinner at least three hours before bedtime.

Also, Do Not Skip Dinner

A woman lies in bed with a pillow over her head.
Isabella and Louisa Fischer/Unsplash
Isabella and Louisa Fischer/Unsplash

While eating a late dinner can make you gain weight, skipping it also will. In January 2021, scientists from Osaka University tracked over 25,000 students’ eating habits. When students skipped dinner, they had a higher BMI. In fact, when they skipped any meal and ended up eating later, they gained weight.

According to registered dietitian Jim White, going to bed hungry interferes with sleep. And lack of sleep results in more weight gain. You can feel a little bit hungry before bed, but do not skip dinner.

Boredom Results In More Calories

A woman appears bored while sitting in the dark.
Niklas Hamann/Unsplash
Niklas Hamann/Unsplash

Believe it or not, boredom is linked to weight gain. Registered dietitian Isabel Smith explains that, when people search for activity, eating becomes the easiest one. When they have nothing to do, people tend to overeat.

A study in Addictive Behaviors confirmed this. When researchers gave people of different weights a boring task, all of them ate during it. Obese people ate more than those with a healthy BMI. If you feel bored at night, you might benefit more from going to bed early than from snacking.

Distracted Eating Leads To Weight Gain

A woman holds a remote while eating snacks from bowls on the floor.
Ercin Top/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Ercin Top/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Although many people eat dinner while watching TV, this can harm their weight. In 2013, scientists examined children (ages ten through 12) who ate while watching TV. When kids ate breakfast or dinner in front of the TV, they were more likely to be overweight.

According to Harvard Health Publishing, it comes down to distracted eating. When people are distracted, they tend to eat more, because they do not sense when they feel full. Slow, mindful eating will help you listen to your body, eat less, and lose more weight.

Night Owls Tend To Gain Weight

A man works on his laptop in the dark late at night.
Getty Images
Getty Images

According to a study by Northwestern University, people who consistently go to be late are at a higher risk of weight gain. Generally speaking, people who sleep late tend to eat late dinners as well. On average, they consume 248 more calories than early sleepers, researchers said.

But there is more to the story. People who go to bed late tend to sleep less. When people lack sleep, they have a higher risk of weight gain, says a 2015 study in Obesity. To prevent this, aim for a regular sleep schedule and early dinners.

Caffeine Lasts Longer Than Many People Think

A man sips from a latte mug.
STAN HONDA/AFP/GettyImages
STAN HONDA/AFP/GettyImages

Most people know not to drink caffeine late at night. But drinking it in the late afternoon can also harm you. Although caffeine’s effects peak within an hour, it has a half-life of five hours, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Ideally, you should stop drinking caffeine six hours before bed. If you drink caffeine too late, it will interrupt your sleep. And people who lack sleep tend to gain more weight, according to a 2016 study in the journal Sleep. Avoid caffeine at night, and remember that some teas, including green and black tea, have caffeine too.

Don’t Stress–Decompress

a woman drinking tea to relax
Thandy Yung/Unsplash
Thandy Yung/Unsplash

Stress and weight gain are directly related. In 2018, a study in Cell Metabolism confirmed that chronic stress results in more weight. Stress hormones tend to produce and preserve fat cells, which add up over time.

Registered dietitian Angelo White recommends “find[ing] ways to decompress in the evening.” If you do so, you will also sleep better, which encourages the body to burn more fat. Instead of working or scrolling through social media, take a bath, talk to a friend, drink tea, or read a relaxing book.

Drinking Does Not Help You Sleep

Empty wine glasses are arranged on a table.
Pexels/Pixabay
Pexels/Pixabay

Because alcohol is a depressant, some people drink at night to help them sleep. But this is a mistake. While alcohol helps people sleep at first, it inhibits sleep in the later part of the night, says researcher Irshaad Ebrahim. In 2013, a review of 27 studies concluded that alcohol disturbs sleep, which slows your weight loss efforts.

On top of that, alcohol promotes weight gain. In 2005, a study found that even moderate alcohol consumption makes people gain weight. It prevents the body from burning fat and can make you feel hungry, leading to a higher calorie intake.

To Burn Fat, Lower The Thermostat

A woman adjusts the heat on her Nest thermostat.
Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images
Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

If you keep your bedroom cool, you can burn more fat. In 2014, a study found that cool temperatures boost the metabolism. They encourage the body to burn more fat, even while you sleep.

Plus, people tend to sleep better in cool temperatures. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the ideal temperature is 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Warm and hot temperatures worsen sleep, and tiredness slows down the metabolism. Before you hop in bed, turn down the thermostat or open a window. You can still stay under blankets, but don’t get too hot!

Don’t Sit Around All Night

Several women crowd around a couch to watch TV together.
mark peterson/Corbis via Getty Images
mark peterson/Corbis via Getty Images

Some people prefer to sit all night after dinner. But this is a missed opportunity. In 2011, a study in the International Journal of General Medicine recorded people who walked after dinner. When people took a brief walk at night, they lost more weight.

In addition, walking an hour after dinner had worse results than walking right after dinner. If you cannot go for a walk, do something else active. Wash the dishes, fold the laundry, or clean your home. A bit of activity encourages your body to burn more calories.

Drink More Water, Eat Less

Water splashes in a glass against a black background.
Thao Le Hoang/Unsplash
Thao Le Hoang/Unsplash

When people do not drink enough water, they tend to gain weight. “When your body is dehydrated there is a loss of energy and you feel tired,” explains clinical nutritionist Lovneet Batra. “To replenish that energy, you tend to eat more, and this ultimately leads to weight gain.”

That said, if you drink too much water before bed, you might get nocturnia. This is excessive urination at night, and it can make you lose sleep, says Medical News Today. Stop drinking water at least an hour before bedtime.

Change Into Your Pajamas

A woman smiles as she goes to bed in her pajamas and eye mask.
Victoria_Borodinova/Pixabay
Victoria_Borodinova/Pixabay

Pajamas are not just for etiquette; they can also help you sleep. In 2000, researchers found that wearing binding clothing decreases melatonin production. The less sleep you get, the more weight you will gain. Before you go to bed, put on something loose and comfortable.

Sleeping in the nude can also help. In 2019, a survey in Mattress Advisor reported that 77% of people sleep better in the nude than with clothes on. No clothes also cools down the body, which speeds up the metabolism and fat burning.

If Possible, Do Not Set Your Alarm Too Late

A woman in bed lazily turns off her alarm clock.
Stefan Klein/ullstein bild via Getty Images
Stefan Klein/ullstein bild via Getty Images

When people stay up late, they tend to sleep-in late. This becomes a vicious cycle of weight gain, especially if you skip breakfast. Registered dietitian Suzy Weems says that skipping breakfast can make people eat more later, especially late at night, which results in weight gain.

That said, research has not confirmed whether eating breakfast promotes weight loss. A review of studies in The BMJ found no correlation between the two. However, setting your alarm too late might make you eat later. Do not set yourself up for weight gain.

Slow Down While Eating

A person cuts steak at a dinner table.
mark peterson/Corbis via Getty Images
mark peterson/Corbis via Getty Images

When you eat dinner, take it slow! Fast eating is directly connected to weight gain. According to a 2017 study in Circulation, people who eat quickly have a higher chance of developing metabolic syndrome. In other words, it screws up your metabolism.

When people rush through dinner, they are less likely to detect when they feel full. Then, they overeat and consume too many calories, explains cardiologist and study author Takayuki Yamaji. While having dinner or late-night snacks, eat them slowly, and not while distracted.

Dinner Should Not Be Your Largest Meal

A man dishes food onto his plate in a buffet.
Horacio Villalobos#Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images
Horacio Villalobos#Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

Which meal is your largest? If it is dinner, you might gain more weight. In 2013, a study in Obesity examined which meals are best for weight loss. When participants ate a large breakfast, they lost weight; but when they ate a large dinner, they gained it.

According to Harvard Health Publishing, our metabolism changes throughout the day. It speeds up when people after exercise and other activity. Since people are not often active at night, the metabolism does not burn as much fat. Aim to have a smaller dinner and bigger breakfast and lunch.