Why Does Food Make Me Sleepy?

As we all know whenever Thanksgiving comes around, food can make you incredibly sleepy. After a huge meal with family and friends, you can start to get drowsy and crave the soft embrace of your bed or the nearest couch. But that’s okay, it happens to the best of us! It’s a strange occurrence and a lot of us have never questioned it. However, for those of you who dared to ask about this age-old situation, we’ve got you covered. Follow our guide to find out why food makes you sleepy and what foods are most guilty.

Common Days This Might Happen

As previously mentioned, a lot of the time this occurrence will happen on national holidays and international holidays. No other country celebrates Thanksgiving quite like America and the incredible holiday is often guilty of leaving its participants needing a good nap after some great food. Turkey, potatoes, lots of vegetables, and rich gravy can leave anyone drooling over the thought of a full stomach and a healthy sleep afterward. It’s no wonder why Thanksgiving is the favorite time of year for many.

Typical days when after eating you feel sleepy, thanksgiving dinner table with food

Similar to Thanksgiving, Christmas is a time for lots of food and having a great time. So it’s no surprise that everyone loves to have a bit of a rest after inhaling the food in front of them. The rich and thick food along with mince pies and lots of chocolate is enough to send even the most active children to bed for a few hours. If they don’t stand a chance, then how do we?!

Valentine’s Day is another time of the year when a lot of people will most likely ingest a lot of nice food and then start to feel a bit weary afterward. Many couples on Valentine’s Day will make a trip to a fancy restaurant or their favorite takeaway so that they can have a meal and enjoy themselves. This can lead to some heavy, tired eyes afterward and will often end with having a lovely rest in the warmth of your own bed. Of course, homemade food is also a big part of this day for many people all around the world.

Why Does Food Make Me Sleepy?

Heavier foods like proteins and carbohydrates may use up a lot more energy to try and digest. Bread and steak are particularly tough to digest and will often leave the person who ate them feeling tired and drowsy.

Amino acids in the body, such as tryptophan will occur when protein-rich foods help the body to produce serotonin. Ever felt happy and content after an amazing meal? That’s serotonin in your body reacting to the foods you’ve just ingested. Because of this, eating meals rich in carbohydrates and protein can make a person feel sleepy.

After consuming a meal, our parasympathetic nervous system assumes that we’re in a state of rest. Blood is transported to the digestive system via the GI tract, coming from the heart. Your digestive system typically uses around 20-25% of the blood pumped from your heart, but almost doubles in quantity when digesting a meal. This can be a reason why your body makes you feel fatigued, rather than full of energy.

Of course, the bigger the meal, the more likely you’re going to feel sleepy afterward. By eating more and ingesting more food, you’re exposing your body to a higher quantity of things to digest. This leaves you feeling more full and gives your body more work to do, using more energy in the process. This is why large meals like Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas meals can leave people passing out on the couch for a few hours - and we wouldn’t have it any other way!

Why does food make you sleepy, woman sleeping on couch after eating

How Long Does it Take to Digest Food?

After eating, it usually takes the body around six to eight hours for food to pass into the small intestine through the stomach. Food will enter the colon, or large intestine, for extra digestion. All-in-all it takes about 36 hours for the average human to move food through the colon completely. Researchers believe that the stomach, however, is empty around an hour or two after eating. This is because the food has passed through and is ready to be digested further.

This can be why some people feel a bit peckish a couple of hours after a meal. Although your stomach is empty, your body is still digesting and has the energy to burn. This is why you may feel not fully hungry but require a light snack. However, this is a guideline and will differ from person to person depending on their metabolism.

How to Stay Awake After Eating

When at a restaurant, you’ll see that a lot of people will have a coffee after their meal, rather than dessert. Of course, a lot of people may prefer this because they don’t have a sweet tooth like others. However, many diners will opt to have a hot cup of Joe so their body remains active. The instant ingestion of caffeine can keep them feeling awake, rather than lethargic and slow.

Others will choose to take a walk after eating, typically after having a large lunch. By taking a walk to the local park or around the block, you are burning off these excess calories that you have just ingested, reminding your body that it is still awake. Rather than admitting defeat and having a nap, many people will do this to stay awake during worktime.

Many people will have a smaller lunch so that the body doesn’t need to digest as much as when eating a large meal. By having a light snack like some sandwiches and some fruit, the digestive system will take less energy digesting and can focus on other tasks like reserving energy to go about your daily tasks.

Final Thoughts

Although feeling sleepy after a meal can make you feel lazy and slow, it’s important to remember that it’s perfectly normal and will happen to most people after ingesting such large quantities of food. It’s great that holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving usually give you a couple of days to nurse your food coma and will allow you enough time to rest and recuperate. Remember that eating is meant to be enjoyable! So kick back, relax, and have a sleep if you have nothing else to do. Let your body work its magic!