Getting sleepy after eating is a common experience, and it may or may not mean that something is wrong with you. Sleepiness after eating a meal often occurs after lunch, thus it is often called the "post-lunch dip." However, it can also occur at night, and this is why people sometimes take milk and cookies before bedtime to help them sleep better.
There are several possible reasons why 15-20% of the population may feel sleepy after eating, especially in the middle of the day. First of all, the body's biological clock naturally sends signals to the brain twice in a 24-hour period, at approximately 2 am and at 2 pm that causes one to sense that the body needs to rest. After all, if one has been up and about for several hours, the body will naturally yearn for a break.
This contributes to a temporary sluggishness, which is perceived by some as tiredness or sleepiness.
What you eat can also affect the way you feel after lunch. Eating a lot of carbohydrates or foods that are high in tryptophan (an amino acid), such as dairy, nuts and turkey, causes drowsiness because these substances lead to increased melatonin production in the brain. Melatonin is a natural hormone that regulates sleepiness.
Although it is natural for people to become sleepy after eating, other factors may affect the level of tiredness one experiences during the day. For example, lack of sleep, working night shifts, and sleep apnea may make one unusually tired during the day. Excessive daytime sleepiness may make you less productive at work and can lead to other conditions such as stroke or heart disease.
Eating too little can make you get tired easily from a lack of brain fuel. On the other hand, eating too much can also trigger sleepiness by increasing insulin levels, which enhances tryptophan production in the brain. People who have type 2 diabetes are not able to absorb the sugar they consume, thus they have high blood sugar levels, but not enough energy for the body to utilize.
People who consume too much caffeine in the form of coffee, soda, or energy drinks often experience a temporary surge of energy but may suffer from daytime drowsiness or fatigue after the effect wears off.
Finally, a mild food allergy may make one feel sleepy after eating. To determine what type of foods can increase tiredness or drowsiness after meals, one can try eliminating one food at a time from the diet.
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