What Time Should You Stop Eating, According to Science?

If you have ever wondered what time you should stop eating, then you have come to the right place. Recently we found ourselves asking the same question, so (as we usually do) we dug through piles of research and journals to find out what science actually says about this, and what the best time is for us to stop eating.

Best time to stop eating

This is what we found – according to the current body of scientific information (and research so far), there are some pretty specific data on what time you really should stop eating.

That said, there is no conclusive data yet on an exact time when you should stop eating.

When you think about it, that actually makes sense, given the fact that different people have different variables (varying circadian rhythms, chronotypes, work schedules, etc, etc). So the timing will obviously be different for different people.

There is a consensus 1, however, on how long before bed you should stop eating.

And it’s three hours.

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Best time to stop eating

3 hours before sleep rule

Three hours before your sleep time is your ideal dinner cut off point.

Eating later than that can not just mess with your sleep, but also your energy level, as well as your overall health.

So if you go to sleep early, say around 10 pm, your dinner cut off point then should be 7 pm.  Whereas if you go to sleep around 11 pm or later, then your cut off point should be around 8 pm or later.

3 hour before sleep rule

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Rule of thumb: Stop eating 3 hours before you go to sleep

Late but not too late

This guideline is very useful when you are looking for ways to optimise your health and sleep, but can be somewhat challenging if you are a night owl. 

Some of us night owls go to sleep quite late, often after 12 or even 1 am. Does that mean we should eat till 9 pm or later?

The short answer is no

Why? Because eating too late can (and does) negatively impact our circadian rhythms 3, which in turn messes up our sleep, energy levels, and even our overall health and fitness. 

Eating late has also been found to be a direct contributor to obesity 4.

So yes, three hours before sleep is a really useful and effective guideline, but not if you go to bed very late.

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What Time Should You Stop Eating?

Early is better than late

It is important to understand something – three hours before sleep is the deadline, the cut-off point. That does not mean that is the best time for you to eat.

Only because you can, does not mean you should, especially if you are a night owl.

When it comes to better health, eating heavy meals earlier have been found to be better than eating heavy meals later. As an extensive 6-year study found 8, eating more later can actually lead to a whole host of health problems including obesity, metabolic syndrome, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

So yes you can eat up to three hours before you go to sleep, but ideally, you should finish eating earlier than that, and it is better to have your bigger meals during the day than in the evening.

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Best time to finish eating

Last words

Do you normally follow the 3 hours before sleep rule?

How long before your sleep time do you normally finish eating? 

Share your tips, and thoughts in the comments.



  1. Role of Sleep Timing in Caloric Intake and BMI – Obesity Research Journal
  2. Meal timing affects glucose tolerance, substrate oxidation and circadian-related variables: A randomized, crossover trial – PubMed
  3. Timing of food intake and obesity: A novel association – ScienceDirect
  4. Timing of food intake predicts weight loss effectiveness – PubMed
  5. High Caloric intake at breakfast vs. dinner differentially influences weight loss of overweight and obese women – Obesity Research Journal
  6. Timing of energy intake during the day is associated with the risk of obesity in adults – Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics
  7. Later circadian timing of food intake is associated with increased body fat – The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
  8. Consuming More of Daily Caloric Intake at Dinner Predisposes to Obesity. A 6-Year Population-Based Prospective Cohort Study – PlosOne

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