Calories give us energy, so why do big meals make us sleepy? This counterintuitive experience is a common one, and that goes double on Thanksgiving, where the average American packs up to 3,500 calories in a single meal. And while many people blame the turkey\’s tryptophan for their soporific state, the truth is that. So what gives? It turns out that a few factors conspire to make the Thanksgiving meal the sleepiest yet. First of all, if you\’ve traveled for the holidays, shifts in your schedule, stress or even slight jet lag can take their toll regardless of what you\’re eating. But, add to that a few hormonal shifts that happen in the body after a chow down, and you\’ve got a recipe for food coma. For one, high-carb, high-fat and high-sugar foods (like, say, buttery mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie) trigger a, explains
Scientific American. That response, in what\’s called the parasympathetic nervous system, tells our body to slow down and focus on digesting rather than go out and seek more food. More specifically, a group of brain cells called orexin neurons that are found in the hypothalmus are very sensitive to glucose levels, which spike after a big meal.
Those neurons produce a protein, orexin,. But orexin isn\’t the only sleep-related neurohormone affected by food. As the quantity of food increases, so too does the amount of insulin released as a normal part of the body\’s digestion. The insulin, in turn, increases the amount of seratonin and melatonin that flood the brain, two chemicals associated with drowsiness (and, for that matter, happiness). While there\’s no way to avoid a sleep response to a big meal (other than reducing the overall amount you eat and lowering fat, refined carbohydrate and sugar in the first place), it isn\’t dangerous or a sign of a greater health problem. It\’s important to note that having a big meal can affect the important rest you need later in the evening. That\’s particularly true for those who eat late — as often happens during a celebratory meal like Thanksgiving. As Dr. Loren Greene, a clinical associate professor in the Endocrinology Division of the Department of Medicine at NYU, \”If you eat a late dinner, say 10 p. m. with a dessert, some times you start putting out insulin in the middle of the night which can cause your blood sugar to peak and drop,\” Greene says.
That, in turn, can disrupt the sleep cycle, waking you in the middle of the night or preventing one of the deeper sleep cycles we require for true restfulness. The moral of the story? Eat early, eat smart and try to get yourself back on your normal eating and sleeping schedule as soon as possible. Imagine this. You are at work, all charged up and have slotted the 3 P. M. to 4 P. M. window for an important assignment. You have your lunch around 2 P. M, and thereafter find yourself struggling to keep your eyes open! You are lazy and lethargic, suddenly. What could be the reason of the post lunch slump? Is there a reason why you feel this way? Certainly. The phenomena is common with everybody who has a slightly heavier lunch or one that is rich in carbohydrates. Sneaking an afternoon siesta is actually a very common practice in India. In parts of Bengal shop owners shut their shops from 3 P. M. to 5 P. M. to catch up on their afternoon nap or Б Bhaater Ghoom Б as they call it, after a meal packed with carb-rich rice, and vegetables.
Here\’s the real reason why we feel sleeping after having lunch. After a heavy meal, our insulin levels spike. This is because, for everything that we eat, our pancreas produces insulin to regulate our blood sugar levels. The heavier the meal, the greater will be the production of insulin. With the increased secretion of insulin, our body produces the sleep hormone which where it gets metabolized into serotonin and melatonin in our brain and they induce drowsiness. This nervous response tells our body to slow down, stop doing what we\’re doing and let our body and mind focus on digestion. (Also read: Bangalore-based nutritionist Dr. Anju Sood explains the physiology behind this, \”There are a couple of factors working here. The most important function after eating is digestion which requires energy. So, all your blood streams get diverted towards the task of digestion, hence you feel the energy deficit and also drowsy. Other than that it also depends on the food that you are eating. If your meal is loaded with fat, it will take more time to digest.
If you have a carb-rich meal, the sugar goes to the liver and an increased amount of insulin is generated. In this process, the neurotransmitter serotonin also gets stimulated which induces sleep. Б Dr. Sood adds, БThe process is the same after dinner too. ItБs just because we do go to sleep eventually at night, we donБt realize while in the afternoon we still have the rest of the day. Hence, the Бfeeling of sleepinessБ is more evident. \” (Also read: What can you do to avoid feeling sleepy? Nothing much as the condition is absolutely normal. However, you can cut down the slump, and stay alert by checking your diet. The more you eat, the more energy it takes to break down the food, and the more sleepy you feel. So keep your lunch light and consume smaller meals throughout the day. Smaller meals at regular intervals would keep you fuller and prevent you from binging on high-carb or salty foods. Avoid too many carbs or fats for lunch and eat foods that are easily digestible. Diabetic patients may have to take extra care.