Drowsiness After Eating, Exhaustion After Eating: Causes and Solutions
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Drowsiness After Eating, Exhaustion After Eating: Causes and Solutions

Last Updated on April 27, 2024 by enjoythisview_k5b5u0

Feeling sleepy after indulging in a meal is a phenomenon many of us are familiar with, commonly known as postprandial somnolence. This drowsiness after eating or exhaustion after eating can often be attributed to the size and timing of the meal, as well as the specific types of food consumed such as those rich in fats and carbohydrates 1 2 3. In addition, factors like overall health, sleep patterns, and certain food sensitivities also play a crucial role in how energized or exhausted we feel post-meal 1 4.

Understanding why we experience exhaustion after eating and finding effective solutions requires a look into various contributing elements. These include the role of specific nutrients that promote sleepiness, the impact of hormones like insulin on our post-meal energy levels, and how our lifestyle choices, such as activity level and sleep habits, influence these sensations 3 5 7. Throughout this article, I will explore these causes in detail and provide insightful solutions to combat post-meal drowsiness, ensuring you can enjoy your meals without the unwanted side effect of feeling tired.

Understanding Postprandial Somnolence

Understanding the phenomenon of postprandial somnolence involves looking at various factors that influence our energy levels after eating. The size and timing of a meal play a crucial role, with larger meals and those consumed later in the day more likely to induce drowsiness 1 2. This effect is also compounded by the composition of the meal, where foods high in fat and carbohydrates are particularly potent in increasing perceived sleepiness 1 3. These meals contribute to the release of serotonin and melatonin, hormones that promote sleepiness, through the consumption of tryptophan-rich foods 2 3.

  • Factors influencing post-meal drowsiness:
    • Meal Size and Timing: Larger meals and meals consumed later are more likely to cause drowsiness 2.
    • Meal Composition: High-fat and high-carbohydrate meals increase serotonin production, leading to sleepiness 1 3.
    • Serotonin and Melatonin: Foods rich in tryptophan contribute to the release of sleep-promoting hormones 2 3.

Additionally, underlying health conditions such as diabetes, hypoglycemia, and thyroid issues can exacerbate feelings of fatigue after eating. It’s important to consider these aspects when experiencing excessive tiredness post-meal 3.

Causes of Drowsiness After Eating

Drowsiness after eating, often referred to as postprandial somnolence, can be influenced by a variety of factors. My journey with managing this condition has led me to understand several key causes:

  • Overall Health and Lifestyle: Poor sleep quality and a sedentary lifestyle can significantly contribute to feelings of fatigue after meals 14 15. I’ve found that improving my sleep and incorporating more activity into my day helps in reducing post-meal drowsiness.
  • Dietary Choices:
    • Consuming meals high in carbohydrates, especially those with added sugars, causes a rapid increase in blood sugar followed by a crash, leading to fatigue 3.
    • Larger meals or those high in fat demand more energy for digestion, further contributing to tiredness 14.
    • Certain foods and beverages, including processed foods, fried items, and those high in sugar like fizzy drinks and some coffee drinks, can exacerbate drowsiness 16.
  • Underlying Medical Conditions: Conditions such as diabetes, anemia, and thyroid issues, among others, can also play a significant role in post-meal fatigue 14. It’s crucial to address these underlying issues to effectively manage symptoms.

In my experience, paying close attention to these aspects and making informed choices about diet and lifestyle can significantly mitigate the effects of drowsiness after eating.

Foods That May Induce Drowsiness

Understanding the types of foods that may induce drowsiness is crucial for managing post-meal fatigue. Here’s a breakdown of the primary culprits:

  • Tryptophan-Rich Foods: Tryptophan is an amino acid that plays a significant role in the production of serotonin and melatonin, hormones that regulate sleep. Foods high in tryptophan include poultry, dairy products, eggs, fish, and certain fruits 3. Specific examples are turkey, salmon, eggs, tofu, lentils, and spinach 18.
  • Foods Rich in Certain Nutrients:
    • Vitamin D: Found in mushrooms and eggs, can contribute to drowsiness 18.
    • Magnesium: Present in almonds, bananas, and peanut butter, known to induce tiredness 18.
    • Herbs and Nuts: Chamomile tea, holy basil, pistachios, tart cherries, goji berries, avocados, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and ashwagandha are known for their sleep-inducing properties 18.
  • Refined Starches and Added Sugars: Consuming foods high in refined starches (like breads and pasta made from white flour) and added sugars (such as high-fructose corn syrup and table sugar) can lead to a rapid increase in blood sugar, followed by a crash, causing sluggishness and tiredness 19. Dairy products, potatoes, bananas, and beans also contain a mix of tryptophan and carbohydrates, making them potent in inducing drowsiness 19.

How to Combat Post-Meal Drowsiness

To combat drowsiness after eating, a multifaceted approach focusing on diet, exercise, and lifestyle adjustments can be highly effective. Here are some strategies that I’ve found helpful:

  1. Dietary Adjustments:
    • Opt for well-balanced meals that combine protein with vegetable-based carbohydrates, avoiding heavy meals rich in fats and simple sugars 20.
    • Incorporate smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day to help maintain stable energy levels 2 8.
    • Keep a food diary to identify foods that may trigger drowsiness and adjust your diet accordingly 8.
  2. Lifestyle Changes:
    • Increase daytime exposure to natural light and engage in regular physical activity to boost alertness and improve nighttime sleep quality 14.
    • Limit alcohol intake during meals, especially during the daytime, as it can exacerbate feelings of drowsiness 2 20.
  3. Practical Tips:
    • After eating, take a short walk outside. This can increase alertness and mental function, helping to avoid the post-meal slump 8.
    • Stay hydrated and consider power napping as a quick way to recharge, especially if you’re unable to get enough nighttime sleep 4 21.

These strategies have significantly helped me manage post-meal drowsiness, enhancing my overall well-being and productivity.

Impact of Circadian Rhythms on Energy Levels

Understanding the impact of circadian rhythms on our energy levels is crucial for managing drowsiness after eating and optimizing our daily performance. The circadian rhythm, our internal 24-hour clock, orchestrates various biological processes, including the sleep-wake cycle, hormone secretion, and metabolic homeostasis, directly influencing our alertness and energy levels throughout the day 23. Disruptions in this rhythm can lead to a range of health issues, from sleep disorders to metabolic disturbances 23 27.

  • Diet and Circadian Rhythms:
    • Consuming caffeinated or spicy foods close to bedtime can disrupt sleep patterns 22.
    • High glycemic index foods and those rich in fats may lead to sleep disturbances, affecting our energy levels the next day 22.
  • Optimizing Circadian Rhythms:
    • Regular exposure to natural light and engaging in physical activity can help synchronize our biological clock, improving sleep quality and energy levels 27.
    • Planning meals and physical activities according to our circadian rhythm, such as eating lighter meals in the evening and scheduling workouts in alignment with our natural energy peaks, can enhance overall well-being 27 28.

By aligning our lifestyle choices with our circadian rhythms, we can mitigate post-meal drowsiness and maximize our daily productivity and health 27 28.


Through exploring the multifaceted causes and solutions to postprandial somnolence, it’s clear that the interplay between dietary choices, lifestyle habits, and underlying health conditions significantly influences our energy levels after eating. Addressing issues from the composition of our meals to optimizing our circadian rhythms underscores the importance of holistic approaches in managing drowsiness. Adapting our diets to include balanced nutrients, regulating meal sizes and timings, alongside lifestyle modifications such as increasing physical activity and improving sleep habits, emerge as effective strategies for enhancing well-being and productivity.

The implications of understanding and combating post-meal drowsiness extend beyond mere comfort, playing a crucial role in our overall health and daily performance. It prompts a deeper appreciation for the body’s complex response to food and the significance of aligning our eating patterns with biological rhythms. As we move forward, continuing to explore the intricate relationship between diet, lifestyle, and our circadian rhythms can provide further insights into optimizing our energy levels and preventing the unwanted slump following meals.


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