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Why do we feel sleepy after eating a meal?

Hello Sehat
Hello Sehat

Hidup Sehat Hidup Bahagia

Jakarta  /  Tue, October 4, 2016  /  02:30 pm
Why do we feel sleepy after eating a meal?

Sleepiness after lunch can stop you from doing your work effectively. (Shutterstock/File)

Are you someone who gets sleepy after a meal? Have you ever wondered why this happens?

Sleepiness after eating is a response of the body to chemical changes during the digestion process. This is normal and it happens to everybody. However, if sleepiness occurs every time after eating and obstructs your ability to function, this may be a concern. Sleepiness after lunch can also hinder you from doing your work effectively after lunch.

Cause of sleepiness after having a meal

When the stomach is full, then sleepiness will occur. This happens to many people. Sleepiness after eating is caused by many factors, such as the type of food you consume, messy sleeping habits, your health condition and so forth.

Digestion patterns and brain hormones

The body requires energy to function and this energy is obtained through food. The body then breaks down the nutrients from the food in the digestive system to turn it into glucose that will then convert it into energy. Post-eating, the body releases hormones such as amylin, glucagon and cholecystokinin. These hormones increase blood sugar levels, creating a feeling of fullness and producing insulin that will be streamed through cell tissues and provide energy for them. At the same time, the brain releases serotonin that causes drowsiness.

Moreover, food also influences melatonin production in the brain. This is the hormone that is responsible for sleepiness post-meal. Melatonin is created by converting the amino acid tryptophan into serotonin, which then turns into melatonin.

The type of food you eat

The body digests all types of foods in the same way. Some foods can trigger more drowsiness than others. Foods that are rich in protein, such as meat, poultry, eggs, fish, spinach, tofu, cheese and soybeans, contain tryptophan amino acid. This amino acid is used by the body to produce serotonin, which is responsible for drowsiness.

Moreover, foods containing carbohydrates also help produce serotonin and tryptophan amino acids found in the brain. This is the reason why you feel sleepy after eating carbohydrate-rich foods. Food combinations containing tryptophan amino acid (protein) and carbohydrates make you feel drowsy. Therefore, a suitable meal before bed would be food containing carbohydrates and protein, such as milk and cereal.

(Read also: Simple steps to get a good night’s sleep)

Overeating can also cause sleepiness. Post-meal, the body streams more blood to the digestive system to better digest foods in massive amounts. This causes a temporary blood and nutrients shortage in the brain.

To prevent post-meal drowsiness, it’s better to eat a balanced diet containing vegetables, grains and good fats to provide continuous energy. Drink lots of water and limit your sugar intake. Eating smaller meals but more frequently can also help preserve energy so you don’t feel drowsy post-meal.

Sleeping habits

Bad sleeping patterns can also cause sleepiness post-meal. After a meal, the body feels full and relaxed, making the body feel like it is resting, resulting in a feeling of sleepiness, particularly if you didn’t get a good night’s sleep the night before. 

To avoid this, improve your sleeping habits to prevent stress. Engaging in regular physical exercise can help you get a good night’s sleep. It is recommended that you avoid napping if you are having trouble sleeping at night.

Health condition

If you frequently feel drowsy post-meal, it may be a sign of diseases such as celiac disease, anemia, food intolerance, allergies, sleep apnea and relatively inactive thyroids. Consult your doctor if you suffer from these conditions or if you frequently fall asleep after having a meal.

Post-meal drowsiness can also be a sign that you are deficient in certain nutrients. Nutritional deficiencies can make it difficult for food to be digested due to a poor digestive system. As a result, you will not have enough energy to support your daily activities and you will thus feel drowsy all day long. (kes)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.