If you are reading this article, you are probably wondering why you tend to feel sleepy after lunch – after all, it’s not official sleep hours yet, and you are supposed to be as productive as possible, right? For instance, take this scenario: you have just come back to your office after eating very tasty sandwiches for lunch, but you are struggling with sleep ten minutes later, dozing off on your desk.
Actually, this is normal – and it is due to various factors that include the foods you eat, your sleeping habits, and so on. here is a rundown on all that.
The digestion cycle
In order to function properly, the body needs energy, and that energy comes from your food. The body breaks down your food into fuel in the form of glucose, while macronutrients give the body energy in the form of calories.
During digestion, the process triggers various kinds of responses in the body, not just changing food into energy.
These include the feeling of satisfaction, which is due to hormones such as amylin, CCK (cholecystokinin) and glucagon. When this occurs, the blood sugar level increases, and the pancreas produces insulin that allows the sugar to go from the blood to the cells for energy use.
What does this have to do with sleep anyway? Here is the thing – if certain hormones increase in the brain during the digestion process, they can result in drowsiness. One of them is serotonin, as well as melatonin (the famous hormone that makes you want to collapse on your IKEA mattress and blackout for hours). Even though melatonin is not usually produced during digestion, certain foods can influence its production more than others.
What foods are these though?
Foods containing tryptophan
Any food that has a high amount of protein will contain this amino acid. These include turkey, eggs, fish, spinach, cheese and soy. This is also why you might end up feeling sleepy after a thanksgiving meal, though it can be attributed to other factors like the amount of carbohydrates you consume.
The body uses this amino acid to create serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates your sleep cycle, although consumption of alcohol can also increase your sleepiness when consumed with these foods as well.
These include cherries, which affect levels of melatonin, bananas, which relax your muscles, and carbohydrates, which lead to spikes and falls in blood sugar.
Your sleep habits
One of the major factors that lead to drowsiness during the day is pretty obvious – the lack of proper sleep. You do not need to purchase an expensive mattress to improve on that, but certain habits you have will ultimately affect the quality and quantity of sleep you get.
Some of these factors include minimizing stress levels, having a regular schedule of sleeping and waking up, and incorporating exercise in your routine. Sometimes an afternoon nap can help in boosting your physical and mental performance, although you need to be careful about it so that you do not ruin your sleep quality when the night comes.
Exercise does not just help you to stay fit (even though that is among the benefits) – it also helps you sleep better and prevent drowsiness during the day even after eating a meal. Regular exercise can reduce your overall fatigue, according to multiple studies.
What we mean here is that a sedentary lifestyle will not help in creating some form of energy reserve that you can use when you need to. Maintaining physical activity will instead give you the energy you need to power through your day – plus it is a great way for the body to burn those calories.
Additional health conditions you may not know about
There are those rare circumstances when you are sleepy all the time, whether you have eaten a meal and slept well or not – and that is the sign of an underlying problem. Some of these conditions might include food allergies or intolerances, diabetes, underactive thyroid, sleep apnea, anemia, and celiac disease.
In case you are frequently tired despite taking measures to solve the problem, make sure to talk to your doctor about the possible reasons. They can help you to know the reason behind that slump, even those you may not have thought of.
People with diabetes will usually feel tired after eating because it is a sign of hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia – in other words, low blood sugar and high blood sugar respectively.
Signs associated with hyperglycemia include fatigue, increasing thirst, and increased urination. When the body cells are deprived of sugar, this leaves you feeling tired, and there is also insufficient insulin that regulates the entry of blood sugar into the cells.
In the case of hypoglycemia, you get tired because of very fast rates of blood sugar spikes and falls, especially after consuming simple carbohydrates. This results in a feeling of fatigue, along with other symptoms such as hunger, weakness or dizziness, confusion, and irritability.
Food allergies or intolerance
These impact the digestion process in general, as well as resulting in other uncomfortable symptoms such as migraines, skin conditions and gastrointestinal upset.
How to deal with the issue?
If the reason behind your sleepiness is not a serious one (such as the presence of a medical condition), then there are some simple steps you can take to increase your energy levels throughout the day.
These include staying hydrated by drinking water, getting sufficient levels of sleep (between 7 to 9 hours daily), consuming the appropriate electrolytes, regular exercise, and reducing the quantity of food that you eat in a single serving. I addition, aim to reduce your alcohol consumption (because alcohol interferes with serotonin levels), be careful with caffeine consumption, and eat healthier fats and complex carbohydrates.
Consumption of less sugar and more frequent meals helps immensely – but make sure these meals are small.
While you may feel ashamed of feeling sleepy after an afternoon meal, just remember there is nothing to worry about – it is just because of the reaction of your body to the digestion process.