It is common to feel sleepy after eating.

Food Coma: Post Lunch Slump

Question: Nowadays, I often get drowsy after lunch. This has been going on ever since I started my first job about five months ago. My work performance is affected as I can’t seem to concentrate for the first hour after my meal. Am I eating too much, or too little?

Answer: Postprandial somnolence, commonly known as “food coma”, is a normal state of drowsiness or lethargy following a meal. It occurs when you consume foods with a high glycaemic index (GI). As these foods are more easily digested than low GI foods, higher amounts of glucose are absorbed into the body. When this happens, there is a rise in insulin secretion — which stimulates the uptake of amino acids like valine, leucine, and isoleucine into the skeletal muscle, but not the amino acid tryptophan.

Related: Yawn! I’m Having A Food Coma

Tryptophan then enters the brain and converts to serotonin, which in turn converts to melatonin. Increased brain serotonin and melatonin levels result in sleepiness. These chemicals regulate our body’s sleep-wake cycle, and an increase in both can result in sleepiness.

To avoid feeling sleepy after eating, consume more low GI foods, such as whole fruits, green leafy vegetables, beans, and wholemeal pasta. Stick to water instead of soft drinks.

Dr Matthias Paul Toh
Population Health Office
National Healthcare Group

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