Midnight munchies could threaten your ticker
When you're up past your bedtime... or you've woken up in the middle of the night... there's nothing more alluring than a trip to the fridge.
Sometimes it doesn't even matter what you find in there -- because once that door opens and that little light inside turns on, the grazing begins.
But according to a new study, you should really leave the midnight milk and cookies to Santa -- because eating during the night can up your chances of heart disease.
In the study out of Mexico, researchers fed a group of rats at the beginning of their rest period AND at the beginning of their active phase, and then they measured the levels of fats called triglycerides in their blood after each meal.
Now, the researchers were interested in triglycerides because we know that, in humans, having high levels of these fats in the blood is a risk factor for heart disease.
By the end of the study, it turned out that the rats' triglycerides spiked more drastically when they ate at the start of their REST period than when they ate at the start of their ACTIVE phase -- suggesting that eating when they should have been resting disturbed the rats' natural biological clock.
To test the theory, the researchers removed a part of the rats' brains that controls their 24-hour cycle and then repeated the experiment.
This time, there was NO difference in triglyceride levels, whether the rats were fed before rest or before activity -- proving that a disruption in the biological clock explained the earlier variation.
Now, I know you're not a lab animal, but humans and rats are actually similar in this way.
Previous studies have shown that when you ignore your biological clock and shovel in midnight snacks, you can add pounds to your waistline... elevate your blood pressure... and even make it harder for your brain to form new memories.
And it makes sense that eating too late could spike your triglycerides -- because your muscles and tissues don't soak up these fats for fuel when your internal clock signals that it's rest time.
Translation: WHEN you eat can be almost as important as WHAT you eat.
So, the next time you wake up and not a creature is stirring... not even a mouse... don't find comfort in the fridge.
If hunger is driving you, try eating a high-protein dinner with lots of fiber to keep you feeling full until morning.
But if your snacking sessions are fueled by anxiety, taking a warm bath or a hot shower can calm your nerves and help you sleep like a baby.
For fewer wake-ups in the first place, natural sleep supplements like melatonin, L-theanine, and 5-HTP can help you stay asleep throughout the night.