English 4 MIN READ 677 VIEWS April 24, 2024

Do You Feel Sleepy after Eating? Know Why!

Written By HealthKart
Medically Reviewed By Dr. Aarti Nehra

Most people have experienced heavy eyelids or becoming sleepy after eating – soon after consuming a big meal. Whether it’s a sunday breakfast or a holiday feast, you might be curious about the actual reason why food makes you tired and sleepy. Thankfully, this phenomenon, known as post-meal tiredness or postprandial somnolence, typically poses no significant concern unless it significantly disrupts one’s daily activities. 

A post-lunch dip in energy and sleepiness after eating can occasionally impact productivity at work. A sleep condition or underlying medical issue might occasionally cause extreme drowsiness. A person’s ability to fall asleep after eating can be influenced by several variables, such as when, what, and how much they consume.

In this blog, we will learn more about postprandial sleepiness and understand why people get tired after eating, foods that may cause drowsiness, and ways to reduce uncontrollable sleepiness after eating.

What is Postprandial Somnolence?

Postprandial somnolence refers to a feeling of sleepiness after consuming food. It is sometimes known as the post-lunch dip or more informally, referred to as ‘food coma’. A large meal and a meal’s composition can cause sleepiness or make you feel tired after eating. Research has found that meals high in fats, carbohydrates or calories may increase sleepiness.

Finding a single reason for postprandial tiredness or extreme tiredness after eating can be difficult. Rather, drowsiness following a meal can occur for a variety of reasons, and the cause will vary depending on the individual and the food.

Which Foods can Make You Sleepy?

Below is a list of some food items that are likely to trigger sleepiness:

  • Rich, heavy, and high-fat foods: Foods high in fat might be harder to digest, which increases the chance of feeling tired after eating. 
  • Meals high in carbohydrates: Meals high in carbohydrates have been shown to elevate the perceived level of postprandial fatigue in addition to fat.
  • Tryptophan triggers the brain’s sleep-inducing mechanism: An amino acid called tryptophan is known to help the brain sleep. Tryptophan can also be found in milk, chocolate, bananas, and oats. Although tryptophan alone may not always make you feel drowsy, eating carbohydrates with it increases its effects.
  • Tart cherries promote sleep: Small studies have found tart cherries to be associated with improved nighttime sleep. Certain sour cherries contain tryptophan and melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep, and other active ingredients that may promote sleep.
  • High melatonin content in nuts: Among plant foods, walnuts, pistachios, and other nuts have some of the highest melatonin content. Considering how melatonin affects sleep, consuming a large quantity of nuts may make you feel sleepy after eating.

What Else Causes Sleepiness?

In addition to the nutritional content of food, a person’s body composition, work schedule, general health, exposure to sunlight, and timing of meals can all influence how drowsy he/she feels after eating. Uncontrollable sleepiness after eating, which can be caused by inadequate sleep at night due to insomnia or any other sleep problem, may appear as post-meal drowsiness.

Other causes of feeling tired after eating:

  • Decreased energy levels due to Circadian rhythm (body’s internal clock)
  • Disrupted sleep at night
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Underlying health conditions like unbalanced or low blood sugar levels and anaemia exacerbate fatigue and hypothyroidism.
  • Certain medications can make you tired.

Ways to Prevent Sleepiness after Eating

Although there is no guaranteed way to prevent sleepiness after eating or postprandial sleepiness, some practical steps may help people stay awake and alert after meals.

  • Awareness of a meal’s quantity and nutritional composition may help avoid postprandial sleepiness.
  • Avoid eating high-fat or high-carb meals.
  • Being mindful of alcohol consumption may also help prevent dips.
  • Another strategy for managing the post-lunch dip is to take a quick nap.
  • Seeking bright light after meals to avoid sleep can be a good alternative.
  • Sleeping at night properly can reduce uncontrollable sleepiness after eating during the daytime, which may translate to less drowsiness after a meal.
  • Getting active by doing exercise or walking can avoid general daytime extreme fatigue after eating.
  • Stay hydrated to prevent dehydration. Staying dehydrated for a long time often results in overwhelming tiredness after eating. 

When You Should Talk to a Doctor?

Although postprandial sleepiness or sleepiness after eating is common, there are some situations where it might be a sign of a more serious illness. If someone shows any of the following symptoms of excessive or troublesome sleepiness, they should consult a doctor:

  • Postprandial drowsiness that hinders social, academic, or occupational obligations.
  • Drowsiness when operating large equipment or when driving.
  • Excessive fatigue or falling asleep throughout the day on several occasions. 
  • Postprandial drowsiness or sleepiness after eating along with additional signs of health issues. 

Conclusion

It’s normal to feel sleepy after eating. However, occasionally it may indicate an underlying medical condition such as diabetes or insulin resistance. Even while the specific cause of why people feel extreme tiredness after eating is unknown, you can increase your energy levels by eating smaller, more balanced meals, exercising frequently, and getting enough rest. However, it’s a good idea to see your doctor if you frequently feel sleepy after eating or exhausted after eating. They can assist you in determining the cause of your exhaustion and make recommendations for potential strategies to feel less exhausted after eating.

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