Why Do We Get Sleepy After Eating?
Why Do We Get Sleepy After Eating?
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Why Do We Get Sleepy After Eating?

By Olivia Harlow

Food gives us energy. It kick-starts our day, powers our brains in the workplace, and fuels our exercise. So, why is it that after a big meal, we normally go into a “food coma” of inescapable tiredness?

The easy answer is insulin. After a heavy meal, the pancreas is hard at work to produce this hormone, which regulates blood sugar. The bigger the meal, the more insulin is produced. Then, the insulin is absorbed and transformed into serotonin and melatonin—both causing drowsiness. All in all, the process is our body’s natural way of telling us to simply digest and rest.

But, there’s more…


To be honest, all foods cause tiredness. There’s no real way to prevent getting a bit sleepy after larger meals. The key is eating smaller portions, less fat, and avoiding desert. That said, here are a few foods that increase lethargy:

  • Dairy

Foods such as cheese and eggs have high doses of a sleep-inducing amino acid called tryptophan. By cutting back on breakfast burritos and pizzas, you’ll be a bit more alert.

  • High-carb and high-fat foods

Buttery noodles and creamy mashed potatoes are sure to trigger a neural response that slows you down. These types of fatty foods send a message to the nervous systems, telling the body to rest and digest rather than continuing to grind gears. (That’s why it’s especially hard to motivate a gym session after an Italian feast of garlic bread and spaghetti re-fills.)

  • Sugar

Have you noticed that every time you have a sugary desert while on lunch break, it’s nearly impossible to stay awake when you return to your desk? Well, a set of neurons found in the hypothalamus area of the brain is super sensitive to glucose levels, which naturally spike after large meals—and spike even higher when those large meals include brownies, Sprite, and macaroons. 


If you’ve recently traveled, are stressed, or just experienced a shift in your schedule, your hormones are thrown out of whack in a way that is utterly exhausting.

To no real surprise, your daily sleep schedule also plays a huge role. If you aren’t getting enough at night, the chemical-balance of your food can affect you even more than it would if you were getting the proper eight-plus hours of rest each night.


Don’t skip your meals, opt for light salads or veggie-loaded smoothies, implement more movement into your day, and persevere.

It might seem counterintuitive, but skipping a meal won’t do you any good either, since food is mental and physical power. In the end, an empty stomach only intensifies feelings of weakness.

Leaving the office on your lunch break and forcing yourself to walk around before and after a meal—rather than eating at your desk—helps re-stimulate energy. Additionally, a small cup of coffee or caffeinated tea can assist keeping you awake.

If you can get passed the first 30 minutes or so post-meal, you’ll eventually perk up and be ready for whatever’s ahead. Just remember that the food coma is totally normal, and that everyone around you probably feels the exact same way.

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