Three new health benefits from eating dinner early.

We all know we should be getting to sleep earlier than we do. (Skimping on sleep, not only makes you feel sluggish the next day, it can also increase your risk for heart disease, depression and high blood pressure-just to name a few risk factors.) Now recent studies are showing that we would also benefit from turning the clock forward when it comes to dinner. Of course, you save money by going for the early-bird special; but here are three more healthy reasons why an early dinner is a good idea.

-Gretel H. Schueller, Contributing Writer

1. Slimmer Waist

Mice who eat an early dinner and then fast for 16 hours are slimmer than those who eat the same amount of calories, but snack around the clock, according to a study in Cell Metabolism. Researchers suspect that the longer lapse between meals allows the body to process the food more efficiently. They noticed that even mice fed a high-fat diet gained less weight when they fasted for 16 hours than those who eat more frequently. Good news for mice-and perhaps just another reason for us to say goodbye to late-night meals and snacks.

2. Sweeter Dreams

Avoid large meals late at night. According to the National Institutes of Health, late-night meals can cause indigestion that interferes with sleep. The same goes for alcohol. While a nightcap might help you relax before bed and initially fall asleep, drinking as little as two alcoholic drinks actually robs you of deep sleep and REM sleep, which means you wake up more frequently. Alcohol-related sleep disturbances are worse for women, say researchers at the University of Michigan.

3. Better Health

According to Dr. Louis J. Aronne, Director of the Weight Control Program at Weill Cornell Medical College-New York Presbyterian Hospital, people who eat late at night tend to eat more. In addition, studies show that late-night noshing increases triglyceride levels, a type of fat found in your blood. When you eat, your body converts any calories it doesn't use right away into triglycerides; and high levels may increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.