3 Nighttime Habits (Besides Sleep) That May Affect Your Health

The secret to a good day? A good night, to start. And we’re not talking about tearing yourself away from a Netflix binge to get enough beauty sleep. Recent research has pointed out some common evening habits that could be bad for our physical and mental health. Keep reading to find out how your job stress, midnight snacks and more affect you more than you might think.

Giving in to the midnight munchies.

We’re no strangers to waking up in the middle of the night and finding ourselves in the kitchen, digging around for a snack. There’s a reason the fridge seems to beckon when we should be in bed—in May 2015, researchers at Brigham Young University found that while images of high-calorie foods generated spikes of brain activity in the morning, the neural response is lower in the evening. Those foods aren’t as visually rewarding at night, making us more likely to consume more of them to get the feeling of satisfaction.

But eating when we should be sleeping might not be good for our brains, Dec 2015 research from the University of California, Los Angeles found. When one group of mice—who are nocturnal animals and usually eat throughout the night—was fed between 9pm and 3am and another was fed between 9am and 3pm, the snackers who ate when they should have been sleeping (during the day) had shorter bouts of sleep and performed worse on memory tests.

It’s still too soon to tell whether humans, not mice, will definitely experience the same negative effects from eating when they should be sleeping, but some research already supports it. Nighttime eating predicted weight gain in one 2008 study, while another published in 2013 found that overweight and obese people who ate their major meal after 3pm lost less weight than those who ate their main meal before 3pm—even when they ate and exercised the same amount.

Bringing work home.

Just because you’re not actively working on any projects after hours doesn’t mean work isn’t stressing you out long after you leave the office. One culprit? Your inbox. In a 2015 report issued by Future Work Centre, using push email notifications, leaving your email up 24/7 and checking it before and after work hours, were all found to increase perceived email pressure, leading to more anxiety and a negative impact on home life.

Finding yourself worrying about your to-do list well into the evening? A Nov 2015 study published in the Journal of Organizational and Occupational Psychology says planning how to resolve incomplete tasks could help you switch off.

“If you have an important deadline looming on the horizon, for example, your brain will keep nudging you with reminders, which makes it difficult to get a break from work demands,” explained researcher Dr. Brandon Smit. “It seems like we all have the ability to ‘turn off,’ or at least ‘turn down,’ these cognitive processes’ by planning out where, when, and how goals will be accomplished.”

Putting off your workout until the evening.

Raise your hand if this scenario sounds familiar. You have plans to meet your friend at spin class before work. But then maybe your friend cancels. Or you sleep through your alarm. Or the babysitter calls to cancel so you spend your morning scrambling to make other arrangements. No problem—you’ll just go after work. And your work day, as usual, is an impossible balance of meetings and to-do lists. And even though you might sit all day in your cubicle, you feel wiped out by the time you leave the office…and have no desire to go to that spin class.

Blame decision fatigue. Coined by psychologist Roy F. Baumeister, decision fatigue has nothing to do with how physically tired you are—it’s a depletion of your mental energy and self-control. It’s why you cook up a healthy breakfast in the morning, resist the parade of baked goods and candy bowls at the office all day, and turn down dessert at dinner, only to cave and buy ice cream on your way home. And it’s why your self-discipline to head to the gym seems non-existent after a long day of making decisions at work.

In a series of four experiments by Baumeister and his colleagues, making choices (like between college course options) led to less physical stamina, reduced persistence in the face of failure, and more procrastination. The moral? Don’t count on willpower to get you to to the gym—schedule it in like any other event on your calendar so it doesn’t become yet another decision.

 

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197 comments

Marie W
Marie Wabout a month ago

Thank you for posting

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Chrissie R
Chrissie R7 months ago

Thank you for posting.

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Olivia H
Past Member 7 months ago

thank you

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O7 months ago

Read last thing.

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O7 months ago

Workout then dinner.

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O7 months ago

th

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Stephanie s
Stephanie Y7 months ago

Thank you

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Glennis W
Glennis W7 months ago

Great article and information Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis W7 months ago

Very informative Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis W7 months ago

Great information and advice Thank you for caring and sharing

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