Health Care Holidays Lifestyle

Why We Get Sleepy After Eating

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From the afternoon lull after a big lunch to the post-Thanksgiving dinner nap, it’s common to feel tired after you consume a large meal. And if you do it often, you may find that it’s eating away at your days. That’s why we’re sharing six tips to prevent the slump – before you miss the big game, all the Black Friday sales or precious moments with your family and friends.

What Causes Sleepiness After Eating?

This feeling is officially called postprandial somnolence, although it’s often referred to by many as a “food coma.” While there’s no single cause for it, drowsiness can be caused by a variety of things, including:

Adenosine Buildup

Adenosine is a digestive molecule that accumulates in your brain throughout the day to promote sleep. And it tends to be higher in the afternoon, which can make you feel sleepy.

Circadian Rhythm

Your body’s internal clock, known as a circadian rhythm, controls when you feel awake and when you feel sleepy. And many of us experience a dip in energy mid-day, every day.

Meal Size

Larger meals take more time and energy to digest and can make you sleepy during the digestive process.


Foods containing high amounts of certain nutrients, including tryptophan, melatonin, fats and carbohydrates, can cause you to feel sleepy. Some common examples of each of these groups include:

  • Melatonin — cranberries, eggs, mushrooms, nuts and tart cherries
  • Tryptophan — bananas, milk, oats and poultry
  • Carbohydrates and fats — most of your typical favorite holiday dishes, like casseroles, stuffing and more

6 Tips for Preventing Drowsiness After Your Meals

If you find yourself getting tired after a big meal, try these ideas designed to help you bounce back:

  1. Drink Water

Dehydration can make you sleepy, so stay hydrated to feel less tired. Discover if you’re drinking enough water or if your hydration levels could use a boost.

  1. Eat Balanced Meals

High-carbohydrate or high-fat foods are more likely to make you sleepy. Try to limit these foods, as they can cause a rapid increase and crash in your blood sugar. Plus, get eight healthy holiday nutrition tips here.

  1. Exercise Regularly

Consistent exercise can lower fatigue during the day — but avoid exercising too close to bedtime since it can make it harder to fall asleep.

  1. Get More Sleep at Night

Practice good sleep hygiene, including going to bed at the same time, keeping your bedroom dark and avoiding electronics. When you’re well-rested to start the day, you’re less likely to feel daytime sleepiness. Learn more about improving your rest with our eight proven sleep tricks.

  1. Limit Alcohol

Drinking alcohol causes drowsiness. And, when combined with large meals that are hard to digest, it’s a double whammy. Limiting your alcohol intake can help curb your daytime drowsiness.

  1. Take a Post-Lunch Stroll Outside

Exposure to daylight can keep your circadian rhythm in check and make you feel more awake when you’re supposed to be awake. Plus, moving during a walk can reduce daytime sleepiness on its own.

When to Seek Help for Sleepiness

Remember, people naturally experience midday sleepiness, which often coincides with the period after lunch. But fatigue can also be caused by underlying health conditions, such as:

  • Anemia
  • Diabetes
  • Low blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
  • Thyroid problems

If you consistently experience noticeable fatigue that doesn’t improve after incorporating these suggestions into your daily routine, it may be time to talk with a doctor.

Get Your Energy Back with Support from AdventHealth

Don’t let persistent drowsiness hold you back from a full life. Get your energy back and feel whole with total wellness support from our expert primary care providers.

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