This Late-Night Habit May Hinder Your Memory

  • UCLA research finds late night indulges may affect more than your waistline
  • The clock might be ticking on your health. Find out why
  • One easy way to reset the clock on your eating habits.

Dear Reader,

A few years ago, I would often find myself consistently eating at inconsistent times of the morning.

It was a very early-morning (usually around 1 or 2 a.m.) ritual of eating a few slices of cheddar cheese and a piece of fruit. Or, if I was really hungry, some type of store-bought sandwich or salad.

At the time, I was working varying shifts at a hospital. I would often find myself awake and restless during off nights or hungry during work nights in the early morning hours.

It was all too easy to cave in and eat something rather than maintain a normal eating routine.

Fortunately, my late-night snacking went to the wayside when I gave up my erratically scheduled job.

Once I got back on track with a daytime working and nighttime sleeping schedule, my body began to feel a lot better.

In fact, I shed a few pounds, my late-night craving disappeared, and to my surprise, my memory improved a bit.

I could suddenly remember details about my day or events at work a bit clearer. I figured these renewed memory capabilities must be due to my now regulated sleep patterns.

But there may have been other parts of my biology at work — we will get to that in a moment.

As you may already know, irregular sleeping and eating patterns can lead to diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

But those late-night snacks were doing damage to more than just my waistline and heart.

A recent mouse study done at the Semel Institute in the David Geffen School of Medicine at University of California, Los Angeles shows this tempting habit can be disastrous to other important organs well. Most alarming, the brain.

In today’s edition of Living Well Daily, we will explore what midnight snacking can do to your brain and just how crucial your mealtimes may be to living a healthy life.

Ticktock: A Body Full of Clocks

As we have discussed in a previous article, circadian rhythms are the patterns our bodies follow in a 24-hour period. These biological rhythms help us determine when to wake, sleep, eat, and be active. They also help regulate hormones.

Exposure to light helps our body’s master clock, or the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), sustain regular circadian rhythms.

In addition to the SCN master clock, most organs have clocks of their own. While they often synchronize with the SCN, organ-specific clocks aid in the functions and processes of those organs as well.

New evidence from the UCLA study suggests mealtimes, in addition to light, are another determining factor in circadian clock rhythms.

This is of significance for the digestive organs and, more importantly, the hippocampus, a vital part of the brain responsible for cognitive and memory functions.

The timing of food availability synchronizes the hippocampus. When eating outside of normal times occurs, this disrupts the circadian rhythm of the hippocampus and can have some shocking results.

For example, in this study, mice who typically ate after sunset were fed during daytime hours. These mice did not perform cognitive test as well as mice fed at their regular post-sunset times.

The researchers concluded these mistimed feedings resulted in “dramatic deficits in hippocampal-dependent learning and memory.”1

Christopher Colwell, who has researched the impact of disturbances in the sleep/wake cycle have on memory and learning for years, is co-author of the study, and is a psychiatry professor at the UCLA School of Medicine, added:

“We showed that under these eating conditions, some parts of the body, especially the hippocampus, are completely shifted in their molecular clock. So the hippocampus, the part of the brain which is so essential for learning and memory, is actually following when the food is available.”3

Put plainly, midnight snacking on a regular basis may impair your memory and learning functions.

This sounds all too familiar to me. My mixed up mealtimes certainly had an effect on the clarity of my memory and my learning abilities.

To further the point, Dawn Loh from the UCLA Laboratory of Circadian and Sleep Medicine added this about the research:

“We have provided the first evidence that taking regular meals at the wrong time of day has far-reaching effects for learning and memory. Since many people find themselves working or playing during times when they’d normally be asleep, it is important to know that this could dull some of the functions of the brain.” 3

As of right now, the research seems to suggest the way to combat these possible health effects is to maintain regular eating hours.

Clean Your Eating Clock

So the solution seems simple — just don’t indulge in midnight snacks.

Except this may not be an option for those with erratic work schedules or other situations that do not allow for regular eating hours.

If your life does not allow for daytime meals, you can try to keep your meal times regular during the night.

Pick three times a day that you know you are going to be awake and hungry.

For example, if you’re most active from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., try this schedule:

Meal 1: 5:00 p.m.

Meal 2: 11:00 p.m.

Meal 3: 5:00 a.m.

You can use this formula with any set of 12 hours. Eat two hours before you begin activity, again six hours into activity, and lastly, two hours before the end of activity. Figure out which hours you are most active and adjust the times.

While it may not help your health and memory as much as a daytime eating schedule, it may help to your body adjust to its irregular pattern.

I haven’t seen any research on the method, but it worked for me and many of my co-workers during night shifts.

If you are already on a regular eating schedule, the best thing you can do is stick to it and avoid late-night indulgences!

Do you have any eating schedule methods you would like to share? Drop me a line. nmoore@lfb.org

Live well

Natalie Moore
Managing editor, Living Well Daily


Sources

[1] Misaligned feeding impairs memories

[2] Midnight Snacking Is Bad for Your Brain

[3] Late-Night Snacking Tied to Memory Loss

Natalie Moore

Written By Natalie Moore

Natalie Moore is a dedicated health researcher with a passion for finding healthy, natural, and science-based solutions. After a decade of direct healthcare experience in western and natural medicine, she was involved in public health research before joining Living Well Daily.

View More Free Articles

Missing Out on These SURPRISING Pumpkin Benefits?

It’s pumpkin season. This humble squash is virtually ignored from December through to the following September. But when fall rolls around it takes center stage again. For most of us, pumpkins show up as festive décor and baked into delicious pies in October and November. But there are plenty of reasons you ought to start...

Read This

Grow a BIGGER Brain with One Simple Move

Okay, I’ll admit I may have been accused of being a fathead a few times in my life. But I’ve got a secret. It doesn’t bother me one little bit. In fact, I take it as a compliment. After all, having a bigger brain is a GOOD thing, especially as we age. And now scientists...

Read This

Overlooked fatty acid SLASHES deaths and hospitalizations

I’ve sung the praises of omega-3 fatty acids many times here in Living Well Daily. I’ve encouraged you to be sure you’re getting enough of the omega-3s eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) by eating plenty of cold-water fatty fish and taking supplements when needed. And there’s a good reason for that. EPA and...

Read This

How Much Sleep DO You Need A Night? [STUDY]

I’m sure you know that getting enough sleep is good for you. But what does that mean, exactly? It’s always been hard to get a straight answer. Until now, that is. Thanks to new research we have an answer to that question. The newly published 25-year study compares the sleep habits of over 7,000 men...

Read This

MAILBAG: Is the Flu Shot RIGHT for YOU?

Dear Living Well Daily Reader, “Along with COVID, I’m worried about getting the flu this year. What do you recommend for avoiding the flu? The flu shot?” – Mike from Park City, UT Hi Mike, I’ll be honest. The flu vaccine COULD have a better long-term track record. According to the Centers for Disease Control...

Read This

Dangerous Vitamin Deficiency Sends Folks to An Early GRAVE

If you’ve been a loyal reader for a while now you’re probably already taking steps to ensure your health is in tip-top shape. You do your best to eat well… You stay hydrated… You, hopefully, get in some regular exercise… And maybe you even take a multivitamin… While I would certainly give you an A...

Read This

EASY 2-Minute Trick Fights Aging from Head to Toe

Healthy aging boils down to one surprising thing: your muscles. I know that may sound strange at first. But hear me out. Maintaining strong and healthy muscles is the first step to keeping a healthy body and sharp mind well into your golden years. After all, sturdy muscles are required to fight off frailty and...

Read This

Don’t Let Sickening BACTERIA Bungle Your Holiday Plans!

They say cleanliness is next to godliness. Now, I don’t know about that. But, I DO know that when it comes to your kitchen, cleanliness is absolutely VITAL. The trouble is, even the cleanest of kitchens can harbor some sickening hidden secrets. And new research just revealed one of the most surprising culprits. Trust me,...

Read This

Cold, flu, or COVID? EASY ways to spot the difference

Does developing a sniffle, sneeze, or cough practically cause you to panic these days? If so, you’re not alone. Many of us feel the same way. Gone are the “good old days” when you only had to worry if you were coming down with a cold or the flu. And, let’s be honest, we didn’t...

Read This

3 -Minute Countdown Method DEFEATS Diabetes

Dear Living Well Daily Reader, Make a cup of tea. Read a couple of pages in a book. Watch a silly cat video. There are a bunch of things you can do in three minutes. And now scientists say defeating diabetes could be one of them. If you’re struggling with blood sugar control, your doctor...

Read This