Why Do I Get Tired After Eating?

Feeling tired or sleepy after eating isn’t abnormal, as long as it doesn’t happen very frequently.

Most times, it’s a natural occurrence that can happen during digestion. Other times, factors like your diet, the quantity of food you eat, medical conditions, and sleep deprivation can make you feel tired after eating.

Causes of Tiredness After Eating

1. Release of Hormones

The body releases chemical messengers when we eat. They are poured into the blood to help cells absorb nutrients. These hormones such as amylin, glucagon and cholecystokinin increase insulin production which helps cells absorb glucose.

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Serotonin, a brain hormone, is also released, which can cause drowsiness. Some food types also affect melatonin levels. Melatonin is a hormone responsible for regulating sleep and wakefulness. When melatonin levels are increased, you can feel sleepy.

2. Eating Heavy Meals

Eating heavy meals increases the chances of feeling sleepy or finding it difficult to concentrate after eating. People who eat larger portions especially at lunchtime are often seen to struggle to stay awake after eating.

3. The Type Of Food You Eat

Some food items are associated with postprandial somnolence, the medical term for sleepiness after eating. These food items are often carbohydrates or proteins. A combination of both increases the odds of sleepiness or drowsiness after eating.

This is because these food items affect the production, release, and absorption of hormones in the body. These hormones (chiefly serotonin) influence our sleep cycle. When it is abundant, you tend to feel sleepy and more tired. Another hormone responsible for sleep cycles called melatonin can be affected by food.

Food items rich in carbohydrates include:

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  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Wheat
  • Cakes
  • Drinks with refined sugar

Food items rich in proteins include:

  • Eggs
  • Soy
  • Turkey

4. When You Eat

The body’s internal clock or circadian rhythm has periods of reduced activity. Your circadian rhythm regulates the timing of sleepiness and wakefulness throughout the day. It simply tells your body when it is time to sleep or wake up.

In lull periods, the possibility of being unable to concentrate, feeling sleepy and eventually sleeping off is very high. The lull periods are around 2 am and 2 pm, which explains why sleepiness after eating is commonest at lunchtime.

5. Your Sleep Schedule

The average adult human requires around 7 to 9 hours of sleep daily. In some people, a culture of prolonged wakefulness means that they have adapted to sleeping less. Getting enough sleep at bedtime is imperative for the body’s functioning.

When you do not get enough sleep during your rest period, the likelihood of sleepiness after eating increases. This is due to the combination of sleep deprivation and the release of hormones when you eat.

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6. Medical Conditions

If you feel sleepy every time you eat, it may be a pointer to an underlying medical condition like diabetes or an underactive thyroid gland. It is very important to see your doctor if this is the case for you.

How To Stop Feeling Sleepy After Eating

1. Get enough sleep at night

For an average adult, about 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep is required for your sleep health and overall well-being. Some people may require much fewer hours in bed but if you feel groggy or tired due to a short period of sleep, it may be a pointer to the fact that your body requires much longer hours. Getting a consistent sleep schedule is also helpful.

This may be the only change you need to take to combat sleepiness after eating especially during the day. If you have a medical condition that prevents you from getting quality sleep at night, seek medical attention.

2. Eat smaller food portions

If you like to eat large portions at mealtimes, this may be why you feel sleepy after eating. A way to combat this is to eat smaller portions. You can still reach your desired intake by eating frequent smaller meals spread throughout the day.

This will let your body process each meal while keeping you awake. Furthermore, eating a balanced and healthy diet is key to good general health.

3. Be Physically active

You can take a walk, use the stairs or pace around a small room to keep your alertness level up after eating. A sedentary lifestyle also increases the chances of falling asleep after eating so be sure to include exercises in your day to day activities.

4. Nap

If all else fails and you are unable to stay fully awake after eating, consider a power nap at break time. Mental fatigue may be as dangerous as drunk driving.

5. Reduce your alcohol intake, especially at mealtimes

Drinking too much alcohol during meals can make you feel drowsy. Limiting your alcohol intake can go a long way in making you more alert after meals.

6. Drink Enough water

You should drink water before, during, or after meals to keep you well hydrated. You are more likely to feel energetic if you are well hydrated.

7. Avoid foods you are allergic to

If you eat food types that you are allergic to (even if it is only a little), you may feel sleepy after eating or have other forms of allergic reactions. This is due to the inflammatory process in your body as it tries to process the food.

Summary

If you feel sleepy and tired after a meal, it may not be a sign of ill health. However, if this happens more frequently, it may be a pointer to an underlying problem.

You can stay more alert after meals by getting enough sleep at night, avoiding heavy meals, and seeking medical attention for possible underlying medical conditions that can cause drowsiness.

Latest posts by Zubair Abdulahi, MBBS (see all)
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