The feeling of sleepiness or drowsiness after eating is very common and usually occurs after enjoying a good lunch. Surely it has happened to you, especially when you put an end to those copious Sunday family meals. In these cases, the drowsiness seems incapable of defeating you and you will most likely end up fighting sleep in a chair or on the sofa and, finally, letting yourself go and losing the battle, especially if you have eaten a large amount of carbohydrates .
However, that feeling doesn’t just happen after heavy weekend lunches, it can also happen after weekday meals, which can be quite annoying if you have to work a split day at work and need to be with all five of you. senses wide awake. To combat this feeling of drowsiness, it is essential that you know the reasons why it appears. In this way, you will know what to do to avoid it.
Causes of being very sleepy after eating
The digestive process and gastric juices
As we have already pointed out, there are several reasons why you may be excessively sleepy after eating. One of the most common is the same reason why you can suffer slight dizziness at the end of lunch , and that is that most of the blood in our body travels to the digestive system to carry out the digestion process, which will be heavier if we take a copious meal with a lot of fat and carbohydrates, according to the study “Effects of diet on sleep” conducted by the Institute of Human Nutrition at Columbia University  . It is essential for the organs that make up the digestive system to have a sufficient blood supply and, in addition, it is necessary for the correct absorption of nutrients.
To this factor, another can be added that, although many experts do not consider that it affects appreciably, it can affect some people. We refer to the variation in pH that occurs during the digestive process due to the release of gastric acid during it. If we eat a large amount of food, the release of acidic gastric juices will be greater in order to digest it properly, so to balance that acidic pH, the body will also have to release sodium bicarbonate. These changes in pH can generate and increase the feeling of drowsiness.
Excessive sleep after eating due to hormonal alterations
Another factor that also causes the appearance of sleep after eating is changes at the hormonal level. These are stronger if we eat a meal rich in carbohydrates and sugars. Why? Because its consumption generates an increase in the production and release of insulin by the pancreas. This fact is closely related to an increase in the generation of certain hormones in the brain, such as melatonin and serotonin , due to an increase in the activity of an essential amino acid, tryptophan . The release of these two hormones causes us that sensation of increased sleep because they are in charge of the process of regulating it.
There are also other hormones whose presence can make us sleepy after lunch, one of the most common is leptin . This hormone is closely related to the sensation of hunger, since it is responsible for sending the signal that we are full and do not need more food, but it is also closely associated with the regulation of sleep and the cycle between sleep and wakefulness. Therefore, when it is released, drowsiness can also appear.
Foods that make you sleepy after eating
As we have already explained, there are various causes that make us sleepy after eating. In addition to being more sleepy due to a slower and heavier digestive process, there are also certain foods that, due to their content in tryptophan , the essential amino acid that we mentioned previously, or because they significantly increase the release of insulin, will make us feel more sleepy:
- Dairy: yogurts, milk or cheese contain a significant amount of tryptophan. This will cause the release of melatonin and serotonin and the arrival of sleep. For this reason, in many cases it is recommended to drink a glass of milk to fall asleep.
- Nuts: like dairy products, nuts are rich in tryptophan, so they will also cause drowsiness, especially in the case of nuts.
- Oatmeal: its content of tryptophan and B vitamins will also make you sleepy.
- White rice: this food is one of the foods that raises the glycemic peak in the blood the most, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition  , which causes a large amount of insulin to be released with the results that we already know.
How to avoid sleep after eating
It’s very likely that you don’t mind being sleepy after eating on the weekends, but if you have to continue working after lunch, it’s normal that you don’t want to have to fight sleep and that you prefer to be awake. For this reason, in OneHOWTO we explain some recommendations to avoid it:
- Less amounts of simple carbohydrates and sugars: As we have already explained before, if you eat a large amount of carbohydrates, the release of insulin will increase markedly, which will cause a greater production of melatonin and serotonin and, therefore, the appearance of the drowsiness. To avoid this, try to eat less sugar during meals and raise other nutrients such as proteins or vitamins, including more vegetables, meat or fish, so that your lunches are more nutritionally balanced.
- Don’t forget mid-morning: or at least have a full breakfast. In this way, you will avoid arriving at mealtime with a great feeling of hunger, you will not eat a large amount of food, better distributing your intake and not having to carry out heavy digestions that cause you to feel sleepy. Therefore, we advise you to resort to a piece of fruit or a sandwich at noon.
- Do not remain standing after eating: if you have to continue working at the end of lunch, when you finish, avoid remaining seated. We do not advise you to exercise because you have to digest properly and you need your blood to go to the digestive system, but taking a short quiet walk for a quarter of an hour after eating will help you not to feel sleepy, better distributing the remaining blood throughout the rest of the body and oxygenating your brain.
This article is merely informative, at oneHOWTO we do not have the power to prescribe any medical treatment or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to go to a doctor in the event of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.