MattressFirm Logo
The Mattress Firm Blog Homepage>Lifestyle & Life Moments
Lifestyle & Life Moments

Why You Should Avoid Eating in Bed (With 1 Exception)

A neatly made bed with white sheets. Breakfast is arranged beautifully on a tray.
Getty Images

After a long day, climbing into bed is such a comfort. You’ve probably heard the advice to use your bed only for sleep and sex, but in recent years, all the lines about what our homes and bedrooms are for have blurred. So it’s understandable if your bed has overtaken your couch as your entertainment center and has even replaced your dinner table as a place to chill with a snack or your takeout.

“I think it’s a very common problem, especially within COVID-19 and lockdowns and working from home—the bedroom becomes the gym becomes the home office,” says Mattress Firm advisor Dr. Chris Winter, neurologist and author of “The Sleep Solution.” “And I joke that now it’s kind of the restaurant, too, where just everything is happening in this one space. But it’s not a good thing.”

Here are some compelling reasons to break the food-in-bed habit.

Digestion and sleep don’t mix

If you’re eating in bed, you may be tempted to nosh right up until it’s time for sleep, and that can be disruptive. For one thing, digestion is more effective when we’re upright. Lying down during or after eating may contribute to discomfort, such as acid reflux.

Along with digestion, eating before bed also isn’t great for getting solid rest. “Digestion tends to interfere with sleep to some degree,” Winter says. “And it can be really bad if you’re eating spicy foods or heavy, fatty foods.” He recommends not eating for at least two (but ideally three) hours before bed, if possible.

It disrupts our circadian rhythm

Our circadian rhythm, the body’s 24-hour cycle that dictates our mental, physical and emotional functions, helps our bodies and minds operate efficiently. It’s affected by light and other cues, and our habits can help it along or prevent it from working well. When our circadian rhythm is off, we may have trouble sleeping, feel less alert, struggle to focus or make decisions, and more.

“When we look at our sleep, the markers that we utilize for regulating or setting our circadian rhythm are very few. Exercise, social interaction, light, temperature, and eating really are the main things our brains are looking at to try to figure out where we are in time,” Winter says. “Eating right before you go to bed can be somewhat confusing to the brain, in the sense that it’s creating a time where if you’re eating at 11 every night, finishing up your food, and then going right to bed, 11 becomes dinnertime and not necessarily bedtime.”

Giving yourself time between eating and sleeping to wind down, dim the lights and shut off screens, and otherwise practice good sleep hygiene can help you feel more relaxed, leading to an easier time falling asleep as well as more efficient rest and better overall health.

It blurs what the bed is for

Teaching our brains to only associate the bed with sleep (and sex) can lead to better sleep efficiency, research suggests. For people with insomnia, for example, staying in bed when sleep is elusive can cause them to associate the bed with stress and frustration. It follows that eating in bed can cause our brains to associate the bed with food or hunger, reducing the bed’s connection to sleep.

“Mixing eating and the space where you sleep is problematic,” Winter says. “Having a change in environment and movement every day is really important to our sleep. Let’s associate the bedroom with positive feelings of sleep and not, This is where I do my accounting work, and this is where I eat dinner. It can be problematic that when you get into bed, your brain’s like, Oh, great. Lasagna. And you’re like, No, not this time. This is the time when I’m actually trying to go to sleep.”

It’s messy

It isn’t just nice to go to sleep in a clean bedroom that’s free from clutter, in a bed that’s made up with fresh sheets—research indicates a clean sleep environment actually can lead to better sleep.

“Think about walking into a nice hotel room, and it’s just perfect. You think there’s nothing for you to do here but turn down this perfectly made bed and sleep,” Winter says. “Compare that to a bedroom where there’s a plate with a fork on it from last night’s dinner, the bed’s not made, there’s a weird pasta stain on there. When you look at research about cleanliness, we sleep better in neat, orderly places. Even animals sleep better in places that aren’t messy and disorganized.”

Eating or drinking in bed can lead to crumbs, spills, stains, and other messes. Plus, eating in bed can leave behind food odors and even be a source of bacteria. Along with creating a less-than-optimal environment for good sleep, a messy bedroom also invites bugs and other pests, another sleep disruptor.

The exception

Though it’s best to avoid making a habit of eating in bed, there is an exception: The once-in-a-while special occasion, like breakfast in bed on your birthday.

“Those little exceptions are a lot of fun. And when they’re exceptions, it makes them even more special,” Winter notes. “Pizza in bed once a year is really fun. Pizza in bed every night means we associate the bed with eating just as much as sleeping. We always want these things to be treats and fun versus something your brain expects to be the norm.”

For those special occasions, you can minimize the mess by using a tray, choosing foods that cause less mess, laying a sheet or easily washed blanket over your regular sheets, and/or planning to wash the bedding right after you eat.

You Might Also Like

A man and a woman laying together on a bed with their arms around each other.
Lifestyle & Life Moments
How to Sleep Like Your Relationship Depends on ItWe all know sleep is essential for good health. But what happens if we can’t get into a groove with our bed partners? Or if we’re too tired to be good-tempered due to nighttime caregiving or changes in our sleep habits caused by aging? Not only can sleep deprivation trigger an avalanche of health concerns, but it can also negatively impact the emotional and physical aspects of our romantic relationships.
Two people holding hands, with feathers falling around their face.
Lifestyle & Life Moments
Pillow Fights: The Crazy History (and Future), From Innocent Pastime to Professional Sporting EventWhile most sleep psychologists will designate the bedroom as a sanctuary, exclusive to sleep and sex, we can’t help but think there’s a third use for it: pillow fighting.
A business woman asleep in a comfy chair. Her phone next to her and a planner on her lap.
Lifestyle & Life Moments
Why a Nap May Be Your Secret to a More Productive WorkdayNapping often gets the reputation of being only for babies and toddlers. After all, once you get old enough, life can feel too busy to slow down midday for a restful pause. Let’s face it: Many of us are lucky to even get a full night’s rest.
A bed room with a vast array of plants scattered throughout.
Lifestyle & Life Moments
Choose the Best Plants for Your BedroomWe all aim to feel rested, relaxed and recharged each morning. That doesn’t always happen, though. So you invest in a quality mattress and paint your walls a calming color. Still feel like your bedroom needs some help? It might be time to look into some houseplants to liven up your sleep space.
Grandmother and granddaughter in summer enjoy harvesting vegetables from home organic vegetable garden.
Lifestyle & Life Moments
Why Gardening May Help You Sleep BetterThe sheer number of juicy tomatoes you can grow in a backyard garden is reason enough to pick up a trowel. But the benefits of gardening extend far beyond your harvest — believe it or not, it can work wonders for your sleep as well.
A group of christmas presents laid in a pattern on a colorful background
Lifestyle & Life Moments
2023 Holiday Gift Guide: Nighttime Gift Ideas Ah, it’s that time again. Parties, presents and quality time with our loved ones. The holidays are fun, but there’s so much going on that many of us miss out on the most important thing of all: sleep—and nobody’s at their best without it.
A man dressed in pajamas in bed hugging his pillow to his face and body.
Lifestyle & Life Moments
Can Your Pillow Actually Give You Wrinkles? A Top Dermatologist Weighs InMany of us spend hundreds of dollars a year on plumping and firming skincare products to prevent or treat fine lines and wrinkles. But the secret to a more youthful appearance may be found in the bedroom—and we’re not just talking about high-quality sleep!
A white digital flip clock shows six o'clock on a brown wooden cabinet next to a fresh eucalyptus plant in the living room, with sunbeam shining through the window on a fresh beautiful morning. A brand new day, fresh start, fresh energy, new opportunities.
Lifestyle & Life Moments
Why You Should Keep Your Bedtime and Wake-Up Time the Same Each DayGood, consistent sleep has a host of benefits: Boosted immunity, reduced stress, easier weight control, better focus and more. But, if it’s typical for you to skimp on sleep all week and then try to “catch up” over the weekend, the bad news is you might not be getting these benefits. Even worse is that playing catch-up with sleep doesn’t really work that way.
Group portrait of dogs
Lifestyle & Life Moments
Happy International Dog Day!August 26 is International Dog Day. But for some of us, every day is dog day. After all, our four-legged friends are so much more than just pets: Studies have shown that companion animals can improve our physical activity levels, improve our mental health, lessen anxiety, lower blood pressure and decrease feelings of loneliness or isolation.