Home / Blog October 03, 2023

5 min read

Snacks and Slumber: Does Food Digest While Sleeping?

Explore how food digestion works during sleep and its effects on how deep your nightly rest is. Uncover how late-night snacking impacts your sleep quality. Learn practical tips to harmonize your digestive system and sleep, ensuring peaceful nights and energetic days.

Snacks and Slumber: Does Food Digest While Sleeping?


Digestion continues during sleep, although it is slowed down.

Poor sleep can disrupt digestion, leading to issues like indigestion and acid reflux.

Aligning meal times with your circadian rhythms can help optimize both your sleep quality and digestive health. 

Did you know?
On average, it takes about 6-8 hours for a full meal to pass through the human digestive system.

Ever wondered if your late-night snacks are staging a party in your belly while you sleep? Well, yes… digestion continues even when you’re asleep. This does not mean that you should encourage eating too close to bedtime though.

As a matter of fact, it is recommended that you hold off any eating within 3 hours to bedtime. Eating close to bedtime can cause issues like acid reflux and indigestion, regardless of your sleep position. Although, sleeping on your left side is the best position to enhance your digestion. Wanna know why is this the case? Read on to discover answers to this question and to more common queries about digestion and sleep.

Does Food Digest When You Sleep?

Yes, your digestive system keeps working while you sleep, but it slows down because you're not eating or drinking. This period allows your digestive tissues to repair and grow, fueled by glucose from earlier meals. So, if you’ve been wondering, “Does digestion stop when you sleep?” or “Does food digest faster when you sleep?”, then the simple answer is no.

However, eating a big meal too close to your bedtime doesn't give your digestive system enough time to rest. This can lead to issues like heartburn, indigestion, and acid reflux, which may disrupt your sleep.

sleeping on couch with bearaby napper

How Does The Process Of Digestion Work?

Digestion begins when you eat food. Your teeth break it into smaller bits, and your mouth makes it wet with saliva. Then, you swallow, and muscles push the food into your stomach.

In your stomach, juices and acids start to break the food into tiny pieces called chyme. A door called the pyloric sphincter lets the chyme into your intestine.

Next, in your small intestine, the chyme gets mixed with fluids to make it less acidic. Special helpers called enzymes break down the chyme into even tinier parts. Then, your body takes the good stuff, like vitamins and minerals, into your blood.

Finally, the leftovers, mostly water, and things your body can't use, go to your large intestine. It takes out water and sends the rest to the bathroom. That's how your body digests food!

How Does Sleep Affect Digestion?

While you rest, your digestive system breaks down and absorbs nutrients from your last meal, ensuring essential functions carry on seamlessly. If you’re wondering, “Do you digest food faster when awake or asleep?”, the answer is: when you’re awake.

There is an interesting relationship between your digestive processes and your sleep quality, as shown below:

i) Irregular sleep patterns can disrupt digestive pace. Your body operates on circadian rhythms, including digestive processes. Eating at unusual times can disrupt these rhythms, potentially leading to digestive disturbances like appetite fluctuations.

ii) Sleep deprivation disturbs hormonal balance. It elevates ghrelin, the hunger hormone, while reducing leptin, which signals fullness, leading to increased food consumption and potential overeating.

iii) Inadequate sleep weakens the immune system. This may potentially increase inflammation within the gut and worsen gastrointestinal symptoms. Poor sleep can also heighten sensitivity to pain, amplifying discomfort caused by digestive issues.

How Does Digestion Affect Sleep?

Ever wondered, “Do you digest food while sleeping?”. Well, yes. In fact, the connection between sleep and digestion is a two-way street, where each can affect the other, potentially leading to a challenging cycle when one is disrupted. Below, are some details on how your digestive habits and health may interact with your sleep:

1. Digestive Disorders Can Cause Sleep Interruption: Individuals grappling with digestive issues like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or heartburn often find their sleep disturbed. Approximately 79% of those with heartburn experience nighttime symptoms, with 63% reporting adverse effects on their sleep quality.

2. Digestion may trigger wakefulness at night: Digestion has the potential to lower your arousal threshold, making it easier for you to wake up during the night. Noises in your environment or even the caffeine from your afternoon coffee can rouse you from sleep much more easily.

3. Diminished Restorative Sleep: Even if sleep is achieved after eating, it may not be as restorative as it should be. Sleeping during the digestive process diverts blood from the brain to the gut for digestion, potentially compromising the brain's essential functions related to repair and waste removal during sleep.

Because of this, you may need to be extra intentional about your sleep hygiene. If you find that you typically eat close to your bedtime, then consider supplementing your nightly rest with sleep aids, such as supportive pillows and weighted blankets. Our Cotton Nappers, for instance, provide Deep Touch Pressure (DTP) which helps reduce the production of cortisol, the stress hormone, which can make it harder to sleep as your food digests.

Cotton Napper

  2149 Reviews
Cotton Napper cta

Dreamy, buttery softness

Calms body & mind for deeper sleep

Hand-knitted huggable comfort

It's Napper Time
Cotton Napper cta

How Does Late Night Snacking Affect Sleep?

Many of us enjoy a bedtime snack as part of our nightly routine. However, there are some concerns that eating too close to bedtime may impact your sleep in the following ways:

1. Eating before bed and digestion: Digestion and sleep can coexist, but lying down immediately after eating can lead to acid reflux or heartburn. The lower esophageal sphincter, a muscular valve between the stomach and esophagus, can remain open, causing stomach contents to flow back into the esophagus. Over time, this can lead to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or indigestion.

2. Eating before bed and sleep quality: Eating before bedtime can disrupt sleep quality by causing acid reflux, indigestion, or the sensation of being overly full. These issues can prevent falling asleep and interrupt deep sleep phases, leaving you feeling groggy in the morning.

You can enjoy a bedtime snack if it doesn't disrupt your sleep or cause discomfort. If you experience heartburn, indigestion, or sleep disturbances, you can opt for smaller, less fatty, fibrous, spicy, or acidic snacks, consumed at least a couple of hours before bedtime. If issues persist, please consider consulting a healthcare provider.

What’s The Best Sleeping Position for Digestion?

Have you ever wondered, “Can eating before bed cause stomach pain?” It depends on your sleeping position.

Sleeping on your left side can help prevent acid reflux and heartburn as it separates food and stomach acid from the esophagus, reducing discomfort during the night. This position is particularly beneficial for pregnant individuals, enhancing blood flow and kidney function while relieving pressure on the liver due to the growing uterus.

Opting for side sleeping, especially on the left side, is recommended for those with heartburn or GERD.

Why Not Back Sleeping?

Back sleeping can exacerbate heartburn and acid reflux, allowing stomach acid to flow back into the throat, causing discomfort during sleep. This position is not advisable for those with sleep apnea, a condition that can negatively impact overall health.

Because ongoing digestion can make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep, you may want to supplement your night routine with tips to improve sleep. These include: taking a warm shower before bed, sleeping in a dark and cool room, and using sleep aids like knit weighted blankets. Our Cotton Napper is designed to promote the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone, hence making it easier for you to nap when you need to.

How Does Sleep Affect Digestion?

Best Practices for Eating Before Sleeping

If you need to eat before bedtime, or are wondering how to digest food quickly before bed, it's essential to choose foods that digest easily to minimize the risk of heartburn and indigestion. Some foods that may be good for digestion at night include:

  • Saltine Crackers
  • Eggs
  • Seafood, like salmon and tuna
  • Vegetables, like carrots and spinach
  • Most fruits, like bananas and watermelon 

You may want to steer away from heavy meals and foods that take longer to digest, such as:

  • Bacon
  • Beef
  • Lamb
  • Hard cheese
  • Nuts 

How Far Before Bedtime Can I Eat?

2 to 3 hours. You may be asking yourself, “How long does it take to digest food before bed?”. Well, digestion takes a very long time, so it is helpful to time your meals such that they are further from your nightly rest.

To ensure a restful night's sleep, it is advisable to hold off on eating at least two to three hours before bedtime. Late-night meals can lead to discomfort, heartburn, and disrupted sleep due to stomach acid reflux. Also, misaligned eating patterns can disrupt your body's internal clock, potentially causing obesity and various health issues.

When eating close to bedtime, you may opt for light, healthy snacks like yogurt, fresh fruit, or cottage cheese while avoiding heavy, fatty, sugary, or spicy foods. Also, consider limiting caffeine and alcohol intake before sleep.


Your sleep and digestion are connected and therefore, they influence each other. By understanding this relationship between food digestion and sleep, you can make informed choices to optimize both aspects of your well-being. Consider prioritizing a balanced diet, avoiding heavy meals before bedtime, and maintaining a healthy sleep schedule to enjoy restful nightly rest.

If you find that you’re having trouble falling asleep after eating, consider using sleep aids like weighted blankets. Our Cotton Napper, for instance, has a chunky-knit design and even weight distribution, which promotes deeper and more restorative sleep.

It is essential to remember that many factors affect your sleep quality, but you do have control over some of them, such as when to eat. Having this knowledge can help you plan your meals much better without compromising your sweet dreams.