Why That Midnight Snack Might Be Messing With Your Memory

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You there in the pajamas – drop whatever you're eating. That late-night snack could be adversely affecting your memory, according to findings from a new study out of UCLA.

The study, which was co-authored by Chris Colwell, a neuroscientists and professor of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral sciences at UCLA's School of Medicine, looked at "how the timing of meals affects biological rhythms and behavior," reports Smithsonian Magazine

Related: 7 Ways to Take Your Sleep Back

Colwell and his team found that eating late at night negatively impacts internal clocks and cognitive functions – namely making it tougher to concentrate, learn and remember. The scientists set up their nocturnal mice subjects with two week feeding schedules, testing ones that were both "aligned and misaligned with the animal's natural circadian cycles."

The researchers put the mice through a series of tests, to see if they were able to identify new objects introduced into their environment and "remember the pairing of sound tone with a painful shock." Ultimately, the mice that were eating on an off schedule had more trouble with the tests than the ones whose schedules were unchanged.

Related: To Really Shine at Work, How Much Sleep Is Required?

Given that trying to catch up on sleep during the weekends won't actually help you feel more awake, it stands to reason that messing with your meal times won't help either. 

And in the same vein as recent study from Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital which that found using a tablet or e-reader delays REM sleep and affects alertness the next day, the UCLA study was done with the idea in mind that thanks to artificial light and access to devices that prolong how long we actually spend on the job, people are eating later and later. 

Related: How Much Sleep Do You Really Need? It Might Not Be As Much as You Think. (Infographic)

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