Why is food making you sleepy and why you are better off without it

Food coma, or postprandial somnolence, is the feeling of sleepiness or drowsiness after a meal due to the release of certain hormones as your body starts to digest food.

While food is to be enjoyed, food coma is a situation you wouldn’t want to be caught in. Without food coma, you:

  • Avoid the embarrassment of dozing off at work.

  • Feel and look better when you are more alert.

  • Save some money instead of spending on coffee and other caffeinated drinks to keep you awake.

  • Finish your work and knock off on time.

  • Drive safer after meals, without feeling drowsy.

  • Reduce the risk of falling asleep on strangers’ shoulders on buses and the MRT!

Related: Energy-Boosting Wholesome Breakfasts

How to prevent food coma

Not all types of food causes you to yearn for a nap. Food coma is usually more prominent after a meal rich in fat and refined carbohydrates or a high-calorie meal. Hence, what you eat and how much you consume make a difference to your alertness after meals.

If you want to avoid the embarrassment of being caught catching a snooze in that post-lunch meeting, try making a few simple changes to your food preference:

Go for lower calories

Instead of heavy meals, choose meals that are lower calories (below 500 kcal). Check out food stalls with the Healthier Choice identifier which indicates that they sell lower-calorie meals. When dining at restaurants, opt for items with the Healthier Choice identifier on their menus.

Take it slow

Wolfing down your meal at top speed means you are more likely to overeat before your brain has time to tell you that you’re full. Studies have shown that it takes about 20 minutes from the start of the meal for your brain to start signalling fullness. Enjoy your food slowly or you’ll be dozing off even faster.

Siu dai, please

When ordering beverages, keep it plain. Water has no calories and is healthier with your meals. Fruit juices* and sugar cane juice are high in sugar content and should be avoided. If you must have a freshly brewed drink such as coffee or tea, ask for the “siu dai” (less sugar) version instead. As for dessert, cut out the cakes and ice-cream and eat fresh fruit.

Related: How To Order Healthier Drinks

Choose more wholegrain and fibre

Meals with complex carbohydrates such as brown rice and quinoa as well as meals with more fibre take​ more time to digest. These food keeps you feeling full for a longer period compared to refined carbohydrates such as white rice and white bread. Therefore, opt for wholegrain and eat more veggies and fruit!

By switching from white bread to wholemeal bread, or from white rice to brown rice, you reap the health benefits of wholegrain food and also lower your chances of becoming drowsy after eating. So keep a lookout for stalls with the Healthier Choice identifier that says wholegrain options are available.

Related: High Fibre For A Fit And Fabulous You

Trim the fat

If you’re a meat lover, choose lean cuts such as chicken breast. In addition, have deep-fried food no more than twice a week. Instead of deep-fried chicken wings, try ordering chicken dishes which are grilled or steamed.

It pays to choose your fats wisely. Watch out for saturated fat in food such as laksa and nasi lemak or oil in fried noodles and roti prata. Save these for occasional treats and choose less oily meals that are less likely to trigger food comas.

To prevent slipping into a food coma after meals, start making healthy changes to your food choice today!

* We recommend no more than one cup of fruit juice a day.

Read these next:


  1. Cutler, N. (2011, Nov 23). Tips to Prevent Food Coma [Website].
    Retrieved May 2017 from http://www.naturalwellness.com/nwupdate/tips-to-prevent-food-coma/

  2. Jacoby, S. (2016, Dec 23). Here's Exactly What's Happening To Your Body During A "Food Coma" [Website].
    Retrieved May 2017 from http://www.refinery29.com/food-coma-tired-after-eating-postprandial-somnolence

  3. Zelman, K. M. (2004). Slow Down, You Eat Too Fast [Website].
    Retrieved May 2017 from http://www.webmd.com/diet/obesity/features/slow-down-you-eat-too-fast