You’ve been looking forward to your lunch hour all morning. You packed a delicious sandwich on your favorite fresh bread (with a little avocado and chipotle mayo for extra flavor) and can’t wait to dive in. 

After eating your lunch, you feel satisfied, full, and ready to take on the rest of the workday. But then, all of a sudden, that drowsy feeling sneaks in and you feel tired. Why does this happen?

If you feel sleepy after eating, the good news is that you are not alone. Feeling tired, or having difficulty concentrating at work, after a meal is actually quite common. It’s only an issue if you feel extremely tired after every meal — then, you might need to see a doctor about your unnatural levels of fatigue.

So, why do we feel tired after eating? Let’s explore several key factors that contribute to those food coma feelings after finishing a meal.

 

Your sleep habits

The first factor that can affect how you feel after eating is your nightly sleep habits. If you aren’t getting enough high-quality, organic sleep, it can impact how often you experience food comas. After a meal, the body will feel full and relaxed, and if you are already lacking a good night’s sleep, your body will enter ‘rest mode’ and feel more tired. To avoid this, you should strive to improve your sleep habits by sticking to a regular schedule, reducing stress, and exercising. 

 

Your digestive cycle

Your body needs a lot of energy to function properly, which stems almost entirely from the food you eat. Your digestive system breaks down the food you eat into fuel, or glucose. But more than just changing food into energy, your digestive cycle actually triggers all kinds of responses in your body, including the release of certain hormones. Hormones like amylin, cholecystokinin, and glucagon increase your blood sugar levels, creating feelings of fullness and providing energy to your cells. However, your brain also releases serotonin after eating, which causes drowsiness, along with melatonin, which is responsible for post-meal sleepiness. It’s thus important to recognize that the production of these hormones is entirely natural and even inevitable, and they do indeed affect how tired you feel after eating.

 

Your food choices

A final factor that affects how sleepy you feel after a meal is which foods you choose to eat. If you choose foods that are high in sugar and carbohydrates, such as white bread of pasta, your body will release more insulin. Insulin lowers your blood sugar levels, and if your body releases too much of it, it can lead to a blood sugar crash (a.k.a. extreme tiredness!) Your body will be left wanting more sugar and will feel unable to fully concentrate or be energized until your blood sugar levels are normalized once more. 

Also, certain foods that contain tryptophan (an amino acid that produces serotonin) can make you feel more drowsy after eating them. Some of these foods include eggs, fish, spinach, tofu, soybeans, meat, poultry, and cheese. Choosing a balanced diet of healthy fats, grains, and vegetables is a better option for continuous energy. 

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Post-meal drowsiness, otherwise known as being in a food coma, is a natural biological response (in most cases). However, if tiredness or fatigue after meals starts getting in the way of your productivity, it might be time to reevaluate the factors affecting how you feel.