Do late-night snacks damage your brain?

circadian rhythm, memory, Olumia Life, snacks

snacking

 

No matter what level of health you might currently be at, we’ve all succumbed to the urge of snacking when we ought to already be asleep. If you’re up late and feeling enervated, it makes sense to refuel your body in order to stay alert and productive. New research, though, has begun to show that habitual snacking after bedtime can actually serve to hinder you the next day and lead to other problems down the road.

Sticking to your rhythm

Researchers out of the University of California Los Angeles have published a study in the journal eLife concerned with exactly how late-night snacking affects us. Their results, as stated by lead author, Dawn Loh, “…have provided the first evidence that taking regular meals at the wrong time of day has far-reaching effects for learning and memory.”

First off, it’s important to not sensationalize these findings. A single study does not factual science make. That said, numerous past studies have shown that sleep and snacking are interconnected with your natural internal clock, otherwise known as your circadian rhythm. In fact, Olumia Life is designed with this interconnectivity in mind.

This is an evolution of humanity over the millennia to help us synchronize with the day/night cycle of the earth. We are inherently wired to eat in the day and early evening, not late night. Because the processes in our body expect to follow a certain rhythm, making a habit of doing something outside of that rhythm, in this case eating later than usual, can throw a wrench in the gears.

By modifying genes in mice to give them a 20-hour internal clock rather than a 24-hour one, scientists were able to see what off-schedule eating did to the body, specifically the brain. They found mice with the disrupted internal clock had decreased memory capacity, both in long-term memory and short-term recollection, compared to those with normal clocks. This was caused by a certain a protein in the brain called CREB. When this protein is more active, we create stronger memories. With less CREB in the brain due to disrupted rhythms, the opposite is true.

What effects this can have on you

If it’s harder to form and recall memories, it’s easy to see how many different ways this could hinder you on a daily basis. Circadian rhythms are an important part of a healthy lifestyle.

You don’t have much to worry about if you aren’t much of a late-night snacker. It’s worth noting, though, that even healthy snacks can cause problems when eaten after your normal bedtime. It’s all part of proper sleep hygiene, so following that will keep your brain firing on all cylinders.

At the moment, there’s not enough evidence to think that late-night snacking will cause long-term harm to the brain. However, the recent UCLA study does suggest that it is probably not good for you.

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