Your body needs energy to function, obtained from the food you eat. Food is broken down into fuel (glucose) by your digestive system, and hormones like cholecystokinin, glucagon, and amylin are released to regulate fullness and blood sugar levels.
Some hormones, like serotonin, might induce drowsiness when increased levels are found in the brain.
Your digestive cycle triggers various bodily responses, and food can influence melatonin production, another hormone linked to sleep.
Not all foods affect your body the same way. Some foods, like those rich in tryptophan, may induce sleepiness.
Tryptophan is found in foods such as turkey, spinach, soy, eggs, cheese, tofu, and fish. It’s used by the body to create serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep.
While turkey is commonly associated with tryptophan-induced sleepiness, its tryptophan levels aren’t remarkably high compared to other foods.
The post-Thanksgiving drowsiness might relate more to factors like food volume, alcohol, or simple carbohydrates consumed.
Which Foods Can Make You Sleepy?
More research is necessary to understand how different nutrients and foods affect instances of daytime sleepiness. Additionally, many studies about diet and sleep focus on nighttime sleep, which is distinct from a daytime energy dip. Nevertheless, some types of foods may be more likely to trigger sleepiness.
- High-fat foods may be rich and heavy: Fat-laden foods can be difficult to digest, leading to increased likelihood of post-meal tiredness.
- High-carbohydrate meals can increase drowsiness: In addition to fat, some research has found that meals with large amounts of carbohydrates increase the perceived amount of postprandial fatigue.
- Tryptophan triggers the brain’s sleep process: Tryptophan is an amino acid known to promote sleep 1within the brain. Turkey contains high levels of tryptophan, so it is famously blamed for sleepiness after Thanksgiving dinner. Other foods with tryptophan include milk, bananas, oats, and chocolate. While tryptophan alone may not always cause sleepiness, its effects are enhanced when eaten with carbohydrates.
- Tart cherries promote sleep: Small studies have found tart cherries 2to be associated with improved nighttime sleep. Certain kinds of sour cherries contain tryptophan and melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep, as well as other active ingredients that may promote sleep.
- Nuts are rich in melatonin: Walnuts, pistachios, and other nuts have some of the highest melatonin levels 3of plant foods. Given the effects of melatonin on sleep, eating a significant amount of nuts may induce a feeling of drowsiness.
While these foods may promote postprandial sleepiness, not everyone will experience fatigue after eating them since various factors influence how the body reacts to a meal.
Insufficient quality sleep can impact how you feel after eating. Stick to a regular sleep schedule, manage stress, and include exercise in your routine to improve sleep quality.
While midday naps might aid alertness and performance, ensure they don’t disrupt your nightly sleep patterns.
Alcohol has a sleep-inducing effectAs a result, consuming alcohol with a meal may make post-meal sluggishness more likely.
Some research suggests that people who do not get enough sleep at night are more susceptible to drowsiness if they drink alcohol during the day.
Even though alcohol can make it easier to fall asleep, it worsens sleep quality and can make it less likely for sleep to be restorative.
Level of Physical Activity
Regular exercise not only enhances nightly sleep but also keeps you alert during the day, reducing the chances of feeling drowsy after a meal. Being active helps maintain energy levels for daily activities.
Other Health Conditions
Certain health issues like diabetes, food intolerances or allergies, sleep apnea, anemia, underactive thyroid, or celiac disease can exacerbate post-meal drowsiness.
If you frequently feel tired after eating and suspect an underlying condition, consult a healthcare professional for guidance.
Feeling sleepy after a meal can be linked to certain health conditions that may cause fatigue after eating or throughout the day.
- Unbalanced blood sugar levels can cause sleepiness: Diabetes is a condition marked by elevated blood sugar, referred to as hyperglycemia. Blood sugar rises after a meal, triggering hyperglycemia and fatigue. Postprandial hypoglycemia which is caused by low blood sugar levels, can trigger a range of symptoms, including weakness and drowsiness.
- Anemia exacerbates fatigue: Anemia is a condition where red blood cells fail to carry the necessary amount of oxygen through the body. Individuals with anemia frequently experience tiredness which may occur at various times, including after a meal.
- Tiredness is a symptom of hypothyroidism: People with an underactive thyroid gland are prone to have fatigue that can affect them at various points during the day.
- Low blood pressure decreases energy levels: Postprandial hypotension, or low blood pressure after a meal, affects people with certain health conditions and is more common in older adults. Fatigue is one potential symptom of this drop in blood pressure.
- Certain medications can make you tired: Drowsiness is a side effect of some medications. Depending on when a person takes their medications, they may experience sleepiness after a meal.
Is It Normal To Be Sleepy After Eating?
Post-meal drowsiness is common and may be influenced by a person’s internal clock and physiological response to food.
Extreme sleepiness that occurs several times a day or interferes with daily life could be an indication of sleep problems or another health condition.
Anyone concerned about their post-meal sleepiness or general daytime alertness should speak with a medical professional for individualized guidance.
Keeping a food diary can help identify triggers impacting your energy levels. Discuss your diet with a healthcare provider, who might recommend diagnostic tests like glucose tolerance or blood glucose tests, or suggest an elimination diet to find the root cause of fatigue.
If serious health conditions are ruled out, simple lifestyle changes can help maintain optimal energy levels.
Strategies include staying hydrated, consuming appropriate electrolytes, moderating food intake, ensuring quality sleep, regular exercise, limiting alcohol and caffeine intake, and consuming foods beneficial for gut health, blood sugar, and brain function.
Being aware of both the quantity and nutritional composition of a meal may help avoid postprandial sleepiness. While dietary needs and responses to food can vary from person to person, it may help to avoid large and heavy meals that can increase the urge to doze off after eating.
Individuals can take note of any foods or types of meals, such as high-fat or high-carb meals, that seem to have the biggest effect on their postprandial sleepiness.
Identifying these patterns and choosing foods accordingly can be effective in preventing postprandial somnolence. Being mindful about alcohol consumption may also help prevent dips in alertness after meals.
- Feeling sleepy after eating is common and can be attributed to factors like size and timing of the meal.
- High-fat and high-carbohydrate foods have been found to increase perceived drowsiness after eating.
- Overall health and sleep patterns can also contribute to worsened feelings of fatigue after meals.
- Eat mindfully and make nutritional choices to avoid post-meal tiredness.
Feeling tired after eating is a normal bodily response to the biochemical changes caused by digestion.
However, if post-meal fatigue significantly disrupts your life, consulting a healthcare professional or dietitian may be beneficial.