Salads are generally highly nutritious and packed with vitamins and minerals that are essential for a healthy and balanced diet. If you find yourself feeling peckish before bed, you might consider throwing together a salad to curb your appetite until the morning. But is it a good idea?

Eating before bed can disrupt your sleep because it activates your digestive system. Therefore, it’s generally not recommended to eat too late at night. However, if the hunger pangs are likely to keep you awake, salad is a good option and may even help you sleep better. Read on to find out more about why eating a salad before bed may help you sleep better, and why eating before bed is generally considered unhealthy.

Why Eating Before Bed Is Considered Unhealthy

The general consensus among the medical community is that eating at night is unhealthy (1), especially if you have already enjoyed three solid meals during the day. Our digestive system responds to the intake of food by starting the digestive process. This can disrupt sleep and cause additional symptoms such as acid reflux, indigestion, and heartburn. Eating before bed is also associated with conditions such as depression, anxiety, and eating disorders.

If you snack regularly after dinner, you also might end up putting on weight. However, the occasional bedtime snack to prevent your appetite from waking you up shouldn’t be an issue. In this case, reaching for a salad rather than a slice of leftover pizza is a good call.

Eating At Night Can Disrupt Your Sleep

Because the presence of food kickstarts our digestive process, eating salad before bed may lead to poor-quality sleep. Regular night-time snacking might have you waking up more frequently.

Even if eating a salad before bed does not noticeably disrupt your sleep, the negative effects it can have on your health cannot be understated. Our bodies need to enter REM sleep to process information. This usually starts around 90 minutes into the sleep cycle. While we are in the somnolescent state, our body is hard at work repairing muscles, bones, and processing information and memories, therefore sleep is essential for a healthy body. Any significant disruption can result in you waking up feeling tired and agitated.

Why Eating Salad Before Bed Might Be Good

Now that you understand why it’s generally inadvisable to snack before bedtime, let’s look at the benefits of eating a salad before bed. 

First and foremost, salad is generally a healthy snack. You could do a lot worse when looking for something to fill the gap before bed. If you do opt for a salad, make sure to include lettuce. Lettuce contains a compound called Lactucarium (2) which has some sedative properties and may help to promote restful sleep.

If You Reach For Salad Before Bed, Go Easy on The Dressing

You can easily make an otherwise healthy salad less so by slathering it with fatty dressings. However, the main concern with bedtime salads is actually acidity. Many dressings are vinegar-based, which can exacerbate symptoms like heartburn and acid reflux. This is particularly true if you lay down shortly after eating your salad.

Additionally, fatty meals before bed have been associated with difficulty sleeping, so it may be best to avoid dressing your salad altogether. Seeds, although generally healthy, should also be avoided since they usually contain high amounts of fat. Even these healthy fats can make it difficult for you to fall asleep, as they take a long time to digest.

When Is The Best Time To Eat Before Bed?

Restful sleep is just as important as a nutritious diet for a healthy body. If you ask a spry elder how they maintain good energy levels even in their golden years, they are likely to tell you that they regularly eat nutritious meals, maintain a mealtime routine, and make sure to get a restful night’s sleep.

Try to eat around 4 hours before you plan to go to bed. This gives your body time to partially digest the food and won’t disrupt your sleep. It may be better to eat larger meals at dinnertime if you find yourself regularly craving a snack before bed. 

Eating salad right before bed can be disruptive to your sleep, especially because the low glycemic index of leafy greens often take a bit more work to digest (3). This is usually enough to counter any of the potential sedative effects from the lactucarium found in lettuce, especially if you experience heartburn or acid reflux.

In Conclusion

Studies have shown that eating before bed leads to sleep disruption and poor quality sleep, so it’s generally advised to avoid bedtime snacking and eat larger dinnertime meals instead.

That said, feeling hungry can make it extremely difficult to sleep. In this case, you can do a lot worse than a bedtime salad – it may even help you sleep due to the lactucarium present in lettuce. However, your body naturally has a harder time digesting low glycemic index foods such as lettuce, so you may not actually reap this benefit. Eating a salad before bed is neither 100% good for you nor 100% bad for you, but it would be better to eat your night-time salad as close to dinner as possible. If you are looking to improve your sleep quality, try Research Verified® Sleep Aid for a deeper, more peaceful slumber.


Emily Anderson is a nutrition writer from Scranton, Pennsylvania. As a member of the 5 a.m. club, she does most of her writing before the sun comes up. When not writing, Emily enjoys spending time with her family and scouring the latest self-help books for pearls of wisdom she can share with others.

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