• Dec 2023(updated on Apr 2024)

Tired after eating? Here are the possible causes and tips to avoid tiredness

Tired after eating? Here are the possible causes and tips to avoid tiredness
  • Feeling tired after eating is a common occurrence which may be explained partially by your glucose response to what you ate.
  • Feeling tired after you eat varies depending on what, when, and how much you eat but focusing on eating to promote steady glucose may help avoid the post-meal slump.
  • Start with tracking your diet and lifestyle choices and how those impact your glucose by using a biosensor like Lingo.

Feeling sleepy after eating has a scientific name: postprandial somnolence, better known as a food coma. (1) One cause of getting tired post-meal is sudden changes in glucose as your body works to digest your food. Your glucose may be higher or lower after you eat, depending on a number of factors, which can cause after-meal drowsiness. 

Below, we explain what’s going on in your body and how you can avoid that tired feeling after eating.

What are the causes of tiredness after eating?

To understand why you may feel tired after eating, let’s break down the process of food digestion.

When you eat, your body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose. This glucose is absorbed from your gut into the bloodstream, where it can be shuttled into your cells (with the help of insulin) and metabolised for energy. (2) 

This is the normal process every time you eat carbohydrates, and the rise in concentration of glucose in your blood depends on the amount and type of carbohydrate you’ve consumed. If the carbohydrates you eat result in a large glucose spike, you may feel tired soon after. The sleepiness is partially due to an increase in compounds called cytokines that are released after eating foods that are high in carbohydrates (1), making you feel tired.

If this sounds familiar, the first thing to check is your diet. Meals consisting of typical “Western” diet foods (think foods high in carbohydrates and fat, like processed meat, fast food, and soft drinks) have been shown to cause sleepiness after eating. (1)

Certain drinks are also linked to tiredness. Alcohol causes sleepiness due to its effect on neurotransmitters in the brain. (3) You may also feel sleepy after imbibing because alcohol blocks the liver from making new glucose, making you more susceptible to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Normally, the liver makes glucose between meals and as you sleep. Alcohol disrupts this process. (4) 

There may also be other causes of sleepiness after eating, including skipping breakfast. While you may wake up not feeling hungry for that first meal, skipping breakfast and waiting a few hours to eat lunch may make you feel sleepier because your body’s blood flow has to work harder to digest it later in the day. (6) 

Other causes of sleepiness after eating include already being sleep deprived and having low blood pressure (called postprandial hypotension). (6)

Specific nutrients in food like tryptophan (an essential amino acid) (7) and foods that increase melatonin production (a hormone that helps regulate the circadian rhythm) may also make you feel sleepier after eating. (8)

Tips for avoiding tiredness after eating 
Trying to avoid feeling sleepy after eating? Here are a few things to keep in mind: 

  • Foods to eat and avoid :
    The same study that found Western diets led to sleepiness after meals found that diets rich in vegetables and healthy fats (like olive oil and dairy) resulted in less post-meal sleepiness. (1) Additional foods to consume to avoid feeling tired after eating include fruits, whole grains, and lean protein. 
  • Go for a walk after eating:
    Rather than lying down on the couch after you eat, get your body moving. Taking a walk after a meal improves glucose metabolism, preventing you from feeling tired. (9)
  • Avoid eating too late:
    Timing your meals is important for promoting quality sleep when you do need it. Aim to have your last meal two to three hours before bed for optimal sleep. (10)
  • Stay hydrated:
    Hydration is essential for all metabolic processes, including using glucose. You may notice higher glucose levels when you’re dehydrated as the blood becomes more concentrated. (11) To avoid it, you should aim to drink 2.7 litres daily (for women), 3.7 litres daily (for men). (12)
  • Are there any ways to track my body’s glucose response to food?  
    Using a continuous glucose monitor like Lingo can help you understand your habits and patterns and work towards limiting glucose spikes.  

A final note from Lingo

Sleepiness after eating is a common phenomenon known as postprandial somnolence. One of the main causes of getting tired after eating is due to the types of foods you choose to eat. Eating large amounts of carbohydrates causes glucose to spike and create an inflammatory response. Instead, eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fat can help you avoid feeling tired after eating. 

Using a continuous glucose monitor like Lingo can help you understand your habits and patterns and work towards limiting glucose spikes.  

Lingo is not a medical device and not designed to treat or diagnose any disease or illness. If you have medical questions or concerns regarding your glucose, please contact your doctor.


  1. Lehrskov LL, Dorph E, Widmer AM, Hepprich M, Siegenthaler J, Timper K, Donath MY. The role of IL-1 in postprandial fatigue. Mol Metab. 2018 Jun;12:107-112. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6001918/ 

  2. Holesh JE, Aslam S, Martin A. Physiology, Carbohydrates. [Updated 2023 May 12]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459280/

  3. Roehrs T, Roth T. Sleep, sleepiness, and alcohol use. Alcohol Res Health. 2001;25(2):101-9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11584549

  4. Brand-Miller JC, Fatema K, Middlemiss C, Bare M, Liu V, Atkinson F, Petocz P. Effect of alcoholic beverages on postprandial glycemia and insulinemia in lean, young, healthy adults. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Jun;85(6):1545-51. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17556691/

  5. Ishizeki A, Kishino T, Ogura S, Kuga H, Masai Y, Harashima K, Nakajima S, Otaki J, Ohnishi H, Watanabe T. Influence of breakfast on hemodynamics after lunch - a sonographic evaluation of mesenteric and cervical blood flows. Clin Physiol Funct Imaging. 2019 May;39(3):226-229. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30515951/

  6. Wessely S, Nickson J, Cox B. Symptoms of low blood pressure: a population study. BMJ. 1990 Aug 18-25;301(6748):362-5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9964048/

  7. Tryptophan. National Library of Medicine. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002332.htm

  8. Meng X, Li Y, Li S, Zhou Y, Gan RY, Xu DP, Li HB. Dietary Sources and Bioactivities of Melatonin. Nutrients. 2017 Apr 7;9(4):367. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28387721/

  9. Engeroff T, Groneberg DA, Wilke J. After Dinner Rest a While, After Supper Walk a Mile? A Systematic Review with Meta-analysis on the Acute Postprandial Glycemic Response to Exercise Before and After Meal Ingestion in Healthy Subjects and Patients with Impaired Glucose Tolerance. Sports Med. 2023 Apr;53(4):849-869. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10036272/

  10. Chung N, Bin YS, Cistulli PA, Chow CM. Does the Proximity of Meals to Bedtime Influence the Sleep of Young Adults? A Cross-Sectional Survey of University Students. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Apr 14;17(8):2677. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7215804/

  11. Roussel R, Fezeu L, Bouby N, Balkau B, Lantieri O, Alhenc-Gelas F, Marre M, Bankir L; D.E.S.I.R. Study Group. Low water intake and risk for new-onset hyperglycemia. Diabetes Care. 2011 Dec;34(12):2551-4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21994426/

  12. Water, drinks and your health. NHS.  https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/food-guidelines-and-food-labels/water-drinks-nutrition/

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