KUSA — Eating late-night snacks or other things close to bedtime may disrupt the body’s natural cycles.

That’s one topic addressed in “The Circadian Code,” a new book by Satchin Panda that looks at the effects of 24-hour eating on the body and weight. Panda is a professor in the regulatory biology laboratory at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California.

Circadian rhythm and how it relates to your body

Bodies naturally cycle through periods of wakefulness and sleep based on a 24-hour day. At night when the sun goes down, you begin to wind down and want to go to sleep. When the sun rises, you wake up and start our day.

Disrupting this natural circadian rhythm has been linked with sleep issues, weight problems, cancer, diabetes, mental health issues (e.g. depression, bipolar disorder).

You might wake up in the morning and start by eating breakfast, drinking coffee with creamer, stopping for snacks, eating dinner late and reaching for those late-night snacks. When this occurs, you are consuming many calories, often during a time in the day when your body is getting ready to shut down for the night.

Is this related to “time-restricted feeding?”

Yes, it sure is. Eating during a set time period puts some parameters around your eating habitsBut it doesn’t mean eating the same number of calories during the same time period, especially if you are trying to lose weight.

Your body is set up to break down food with hormones like insulin and digest them with gut bacteria throughout the day. But the body is more efficient and better at doing this earlier in the day.

As it gets later in the day, your organs need to rest. Melatonin levels go up, and your body is getting ready for sleep and the rejuvenation process that happens overnight. Eating late at night can mess up signals that it is time to rest for the night.

Tips to help balance your eating habits and circadian rhythm:

  • If you have any health problems, or history of eating disorder, discuss with your healthcare provider first.
  • Find an 8 to 10 hour window of time that fits your schedule.
  • Eat your heaviest meal in the beginning of the day. Eat the lightest, least calorie-ridden meal at nighttime.
  • Jumpstart your day and your metabolism with exercise in the morning.
  • Head out for a stroll at night if you are looking to lose weight and burn some additional calories.

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