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The midnight munchies are a phenomena that have blighted many dieters since the dawn of time, but eating late at night can be bad for more than just your waistline. Researchers have discovered that eating into the evening when we ought to be sleeping can be damaging for our minds too.

Christopher Colwell, an expert on the subject and a professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles, carried out the research and found potential problems for those who work late shifts and often eat at unsociable hours.

“We have this illusion that with the flip of a switch, we can work at any time and part of that is eating at any time,” Colwell told Today“But our biological systems - that’s not the way they work. They work based on having a daily rhythm.”

The study used mice to find out that frequent late night eating could disrupt our bodies natural cycle and interfere with cognitive function and even lead to health problems such as Type 2 Diabetes. Frequent late night eating, along with other disruptive evening activities such as bright lights from smart phones and tablets before bedtime can confuse our bodies sleep-wake cycle.

And while the odd late night snack isn’t believed to pose much of a problem, not getting into a regular routine is thought to be more troublesome. The study found that after several weeks, the mice that had been eating when they should have been sleeping and were out of a healthy sleep-wake routine had impaired memory and learning ability.

While it’s bad news for shift workers, it’s possible to avoid problems by getting into a regular routine and eating at the same time each day. 

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