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Timing Matters: It’s Not Just About What You Eat, It’s When You Eat It

This is a guest blog post from the Shut Eye blog on the power of meal timing. Enjoy! 

It’s no secret that the food you eat plays an important role in your energy level, weight, and overall health. But when you eat has a powerful impact that’s often ignored or forgotten. The timing and size of your meals can help you set your circadian rhythms so that you get the rest you need and feel energized during the day.


If we’re going to talk about how eating affects your circadian rhythms, it’s best to know what circadian rhythms are. Circadian rhythms are all the physical, mental, and behavioral changes in our lives that follow a regular daily cycle. When you go to sleep, when you wake up, and when you feel hungry are three of the biggest parts of your life that are affected by your circadian rhythms. Light and darkness play a big role in establishing the right circadian rhythms, but so does your diet.


Part of establishing good health is working with your body’s natural processes. Your body is conditioned to eat after a night’s fast as it encounters the first morning light. Five hours or so later, you’re usually ready for another meal, though you may want a snack in between. Five hours after that, you’re ready for your last meal of the day. Altering the timing and size of these meals can change your circadian rhythms.

You’re probably thinking, “That’s nice to know but how does that help me?”


Light, regularly spaced meals can help you get the sleep you need. That’s right. If sleep has been eluding you, you can help your body get into a regular sleeping pattern by planning your meals appropriately.

Heavy meals require your body to work hard to digest. Overeating late at night can also lead to acid reflux because the acid is more likely to spill out and cause reflux when you are lying down. If you eat that meal close to bedtime, you’re setting yourself up for a sleepless night tossing and uncomfortably turning. Discomfort leads to lack of sleep.


Time to rise, shine and dine!

Time to rise, shine and dine!

Preparing for bed actually starts with your first meal of the day. When you eat breakfast within an hour of waking you’re supporting a healthy circadian rhythm pattern. Eating early in the day at regular intervals continues to feed the body and keep it working as it should. When you’re eating becomes even more important is at dinner time.

Heavy meals eaten within an hour of bedtime throw off your sleep cycle. That doesn’t mean you need to starve yourself. Instead, plan a well-balanced meal several hours before bedtime. Make sure to include some healthy fats in the meal. They help you feel full until you fall asleep. Early meals help your body follow its natural signals that tell it to start to get sleepy as darkness falls. It also gives you the right amount of fasting time between dinner and breakfast (12 hours), which supports a healthy circadian rhythm.

A few other food-related ideas to help you sleep include:

  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine within four hours of bedtime
  • A light snack before bed won’t throw off your circadian rhythms and can prevent hunger pains. Recommended snack options include bananas, flaxseeds and chamomile tea.
  • Cherry juice with its high melatonin content can lead to better sleep
  • Eating on a regular cycle

For more information on how shut eye relates to health, check out the Shut Eye blog by Best Mattress Reviews! 

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