Why Do I Get Tired And Sleepy After Eating?

At some point in our lives, we have had a feeling of being ‘drugged’ or feeling drowsy after eating.

It is, in fact, a normal occurrence and is no cause for concern- if it happens infrequently. While it may be inconsequential for some, it may be disconcerting for others if it happens frequently – especially if it affects their productivity.

Do you get tired and sleepy after eating? In this article, we will look at why that happens and what you can do about it.

Feeling Sleepy After Eating? Here Are The Causes

Concerning drowsiness when you eat, this is due to a number of factors which will be discussed below.

1. Release of Hormones

 

hormones

The body releases chemicals and 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 is responsible for helping cells absorb glucose, the end product of carbohydrate digestion and the source of energy in cells.

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Serotonin, a brain hormone, is also released which causes drowsiness. Some food items also affect melatonin levels. Melatonin is a hormone responsible for regulating sleep and wakefulness. When melatonin levels are increased, it causes drowsiness.

2. Eating Heavy Meals

heavy meals

Eating heavy meals at mealtime 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

Balanced diet

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) influences our sleep cycle. When it is abundance, you tend to feel sleepy and more tired. Another hormone responsible for sleep cycles called melatonin is affected by food.

Food items rich in carbohydrates include:

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

Food items rich in proteins include:

  • Eggs
  • Soy
  • Turkey

4. When You Eat

time 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 these lull periods, the possibility of being unable to concentrate, feeling sleepy and eventually sleeping off is very high. The lull periods are from 2 to 4 am and 1 to 3 pm, which explains why sleepiness after eating is commonest at lunchtime.

5. Your Sleep

your sleep

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, a sleep debt will be incurred. The likelihood of sleepiness after eating increases if you have a sleep debt. This is due to the combination of sleep debt and the release of hormones when you eat. When you finish eating, the body is full and relaxed which may result in a feeling of sleepiness.

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6. Medical Conditions

check blood sugar

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.

What Can You Do About It?

Fatigue and sleepiness after eating may be innocuous for some. In others, it is quite frustrating. If you work shifts or in a high stakes industry where full concentration is required for your safety and for others, this may be troubling. For individuals who experience a reduction in energy and productivity after eating, here are seven helpful tips to help you:

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 to recharge your batteries. Getting a consistent sleep schedule is also helpful.

To combat sleepiness after eating especially during the day, this may, in fact, be the only change you need to make. 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 meal times, this may be why you feel sleepy after eating. A way to combat this is to eat fewer 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 functioning in top condition. Furthermore, eating a balanced and healthy diet is key to staying awake after eating and for your general health.

3. Exercise: Post meal exercises can go a long way to help you stay awake after eating. 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.

exercise

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 meal times

6. Drink a lot of water: Drinking water should be done between meals or after finishing the meals. Here are some more reasons why you should drink more water.

7. Avoid foods you are allergic to: If you indulge in food types that you are allergic to (even if it is only a little), you may feel sleepy after eating, among other things. 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. If this is happening more frequently, it may be a pointer to an underlying problem. You should keep a diary of these occurrences so you can find the specific patterns.

This will be useful in ensuring wakefulness and alertness when you eat. If the tips aforementioned are not helpful to you, please see your doctor.

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Zubair Abdulahi, MBBS

Dr. Zubair Abdulahi is a licensed medical practitioner with a degree in medicine and surgery who is interested in using new media to influence health decisions by providing information on health queries. He has written for top publications in Nigeria like the Guardian. When he's not working as a doctor, he enjoys the game of football as well as sight-seeing and listening to classical music.
Zubair Abdulahi, MBBS
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