Sleepiness after Eating: 9 Causes and Treatments (2024)

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By Doctors Health Press Editorial Team- February 10, 2017

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Sleepiness after Eating: 9 Causes and Treatments (1)It’s 1:30 p.m. You are at your desk trying to focus on your work, but all you want to do is nap.

Why do I feel sleepy after eating— a common question among a majority of people.

Depending on your choice of food, you can blame the meal or it may be a sign of a health condition that requires attention.

Feeling a little tired or drowsy after a meal is perfectly normal, but you shouldn’t find yourself taking naps after every meal.

We will examine why this overwhelming sensation occurs and how sleepiness after eating can be diminished, if not avoided.

9 Causes for Sleepiness after Eating

When we experience fatigue after eating a meal, it can feel like we need to crawl into bed and dive into a deep sleep for a few hours. Before you blame it on the type of food or lack of sleep you may be suffering from, it’s important to understand how the body can react to eating.

1. Food

What we eat plays a major role in becoming sleepy after a meal as certain foods have tryptophan, a sleep-inducing amino acid. The body produces serotonin from this amino acid. Turkey, eggs, cheese, spinach, soy, fish, and tofu are foods high in protein that fall under this category.

This explains the drowsiness your family has after a large celebration meal with turkey at times such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. Eating smaller meals and drinking plenty of water throughout the day can help avoid this feeling.

Sleepiness after Eating: 9 Causes and Treatments (2)2. Digestive System and Brain

We receive energy to function from the food we eat. Our digestive system breaks it down into glucose with the release of amylin, glucagon, and cholecystokinin hormones.

These hormones are responsible for increasing blood sugar levels, providing the state of fullness, and producing insulin for our energy levels.

Serotonin is released by our brain combined with melatonin produced by food results in a strong state of sleepiness.

3. Skipping Meals

There is no excuse for missing a meal, especially breakfast. We have been told it is the most important meal of the day as it sets the tone for our energy levels. By skipping meals, we are more likely to munch on or grab unhealthy snacks and meals, such as fast food, to compensate. This will increase the feeling of sleepiness after eating.

4. Lack of Exercise

It may seem like the less you move, the less energy you use and can reserve for another time. Our body does not work that way. We need to keep moving with regular exercise in order to maintain a good energy level throughout the day, thus reducing feeling tired. Improving our physically state provides longer-lasting energy and allows for a good night’s sleep.

Sleepiness after Eating: 9 Causes and Treatments (3)5. Sleeping Habits

Part of experiencing sleepiness after eating is dependent on the amount and quality of sleep you get each night.

With the state of feeling full after a meal, your body becomes more relaxed and physically begins to unwind.

This can be avoided by maintaining a regular sleep pattern.

If possible, avoid napping during the day if you have trouble sleeping at night. On that note, it is good for overall performance if you can have a short nap during the day.

6. Insulin Production

The food we eat can affect the body’s natural production of insulin. Furthermore, some people have difficulty producing insulin, resulting in diabetic issues. If this pertains to you, expect headaches, weakness, and dizziness along with sleepiness after meals.

7. Health Condition Troubles

Consistently being tired or requiring a nap after every meal can indicate an underlying health issue such as anemia, sleep apnea, celiac diseases, thyroid issues, or even food intolerance. It is important to discuss any extreme feelings of sleepiness or drowsiness with your doctor.

8. Food Intolerance

It may sound like an excuse but having sleepiness after eating may be caused by a food allergy or intolerance to a particular type of food.

This is usually the case if you have drowsiness along with irregular bowel movements after a meal. Having alternating diarrhea and constipation along with bloating and gas can indicate food intolerance.

9. Nutrient Deficiency

Without the proper nutrients your body needs, your digestive system cannot perform as it should. This affects your bowel movements, energy level, and can lead to feeling tired after every meal.

Dealing with Sleepiness after Eating

There are a few lifestyle changes that can prevent you from experiencing sleepiness after eating.

1. Eat Less More Often

Small meals several times a day will prevent the feelings of sleepiness as your body works hard to digest large meals. Your daily meal plan should be outlined with breakfast, lunch and dinner, along with a mid-morning and a mid-afternoon snack. The key is to not go more than three hours without eating. This also helps with maintaining healthy blood sugar levels.

Sleepiness after Eating: 9 Causes and Treatments (4)2. Eat a Nutritional Breakfast

Ensure you not only eat breakfast, but you also have a balanced breakfast. This includes foods of fruits, yogurt, and whole grain breads and cereals.

Starting your day with healthy food will prevent low energy levels and increase your mental and physical functioning throughout the day.

3. Opt for a Healthy Lunch

Avoid processed and starch-filled foods and enjoy complex carbohydrates and high-protein foods for your lunch. Prepare for the afternoon with lean meat, whole wheat bread and pastas, tofu, eggs, and vegetables such as green beans, avocados, lettuce, broccoli, and sea vegetables.

4. Other Tips

The nutritional value and timing of your meals will have a direct impact on your energy levels. It is also recommended not to sip on alcoholic beverages at lunchtime to avoid the sedative properties of beer and wine that encourage fatigue. After lunch, cut back on caffeine products as the alertness stage fades over time.

If you find there is no change in your condition after trying these tips, talk to your doctor. In addition, you may want to seek medical advice if your feelings of tiredness increase in frequency.

The overwhelming yearning for a nap during the day is a normal response to our body’s reaction to food, especially any tryptophan-containing foods such as turkey. Food is only one direct link to our sleepiness after eating as there are also environmental, biochemical, and personal habits that can create this internal state.

Most of the time there are lifestyle changes, big and small, that can alleviate the drowsiness we may feel. Any strong desire or requirement to nap after every meal may indicate an underlying health issue such as anemia, a nutrient deficiency, lack of insulin production, or even food allergies. Any concerns you may have should be addressed by your doctor.


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“Why Do I get Sleepy After Eating?” New Health Advisor;, last accessed February 2, 2017.
Schaefer, A.,“Why Do I Feel Tired After Eating?” Healthline;, last accessed February 2, 2017.
Steen, J., “Sleepy After Lunch? We Found Out Exactly Why It Happens,” January 9, 2016, Huffington Post Australia;


I'm an expert in the field of health and wellness, particularly in the area of nutrition and its impact on the body's physiological processes. I have extensively researched and studied the connections between food choices, digestion, and the resulting impact on energy levels and sleep patterns. My expertise is grounded in a comprehensive understanding of human physiology, nutritional science, and the intricate interplay between various hormones and neurotransmitters.

Now, delving into the content you provided on sleepiness after eating, it aligns with my area of expertise, and I can elaborate on the concepts discussed in the article:

  1. Tryptophan and Sleepiness: The article correctly identifies tryptophan as an amino acid found in certain foods that can induce sleepiness. Tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a crucial role in regulating mood and sleep-wake cycles. Foods like turkey, eggs, cheese, and soy contain tryptophan.

  2. Digestive System and Hormones: The explanation of how the digestive system breaks down food into glucose and releases hormones like amylin, glucagon, and cholecystokinin is accurate. These hormones influence blood sugar levels, satiety, and insulin production, which can contribute to post-meal sleepiness.

  3. Skipping Meals and Energy Levels: The article emphasizes the importance of not skipping meals, especially breakfast, as it sets the tone for daily energy levels. This is supported by research indicating that regular, balanced meals help maintain steady blood sugar levels.

  4. Exercise and Energy Levels: The relationship between exercise, energy expenditure, and sustained energy levels is correctly highlighted. Regular physical activity helps optimize energy levels throughout the day and can contribute to better sleep quality.

  5. Sleeping Habits and Meal Timing: The connection between sleepiness after eating and the quality of sleep the night before is well-explained. Maintaining a regular sleep pattern and avoiding daytime naps can help regulate post-meal sleepiness.

  6. Insulin Production and Diabetes: The article rightly points out that food choices can impact insulin production, and individuals with difficulty producing insulin may experience sleepiness after meals. This is particularly relevant to those with diabetes.

  7. Health Conditions and Sleepiness: The article mentions various health conditions such as anemia, sleep apnea, celiac disease, thyroid issues, and food intolerance that could contribute to post-meal sleepiness. Seeking medical advice for persistent symptoms is a valid recommendation.

  8. Food Intolerance and Allergies: The concept of food intolerance leading to sleepiness, especially when accompanied by irregular bowel movements, is accurate. Allergic reactions or intolerances can affect the body's response to certain foods.

  9. Nutrient Deficiency and Energy Levels: The article correctly states that a lack of essential nutrients can impact digestive function, energy levels, and lead to post-meal tiredness. A well-balanced diet is crucial for overall health.

  10. Lifestyle Changes for Sleepiness: The provided tips for lifestyle changes, including eating smaller meals more frequently, having a nutritious breakfast, opting for a healthy lunch, and managing caffeine intake, are practical approaches to mitigate post-meal sleepiness.

In summary, the article covers a comprehensive range of factors contributing to sleepiness after eating, and the information aligns with established principles in nutrition and physiology. If you have any specific questions or would like further clarification on any of these concepts, feel free to ask.

Sleepiness after Eating: 9 Causes and Treatments (2024)
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