It is horrible when after eating, and this happens most of the time, we get sleepy. A state of drowsiness that if we don’t act quickly and have a coffee or tea, we can take a nap, or several, wherever we are, usually at work. So let’s talk about how calories influence our body and metabolism.
It is a phenomenon known as ‘postprandial sleepiness’, according to Dr Clotilde Vázquez in an interview with Infosalus. She is the head of the Department of Endocrinology and Nutrition at the Fundación Jiménez Díaz in Madrid.
Clotilde explains that this does not happen to everyone and closely relates to the volume of food a person eats.
“Among other things, it is usually related to the copious ingestion of food. This sensation or drowsiness comes after eating. With the start of digestion, the diaphragm rises a little, breathing is more shallow, and a little carbon dioxide accumulates, which gives us that drowsiness. It is more pronounced than in others,” explains the specialist.
Increase in neurotransmitters
To this factor should be added, in her opinion, the increase in neurotransmitters that occurs during digestion, specifically related to eating fats and carbohydrates, which increase, for example, serotonin, “a natural anxiolytic” that favours sleep, according to the endocrinologist.
She points out that many people with sleep problems are advised to take something sweet before going to sleep because it increases serotonin and a feeling of relaxation. “It would be like a natural orfidal”, jokes the expert.
Specifically, Vázquez points out that this low occurs about 30 minutes after eating and in the middle of the digestion process. “The arrival in the blood of nutrients that increase serotonin also reduces cerebral circulation to the digestive system. So we left with areas that are not needed at that moment under irrigation. This is why we also get the sensation of the neuronal shutdown that characterises it, together with the false sensation of lack of oxygen that comes with this drowsiness,” the specialist points out.
Add this, the person is in a warm or zero-stress environment, and in the distance, he or she hears the purr of the television, and the drowsiness is further enhanced.
Sluggishness after eating something sweet
However, the Department of Endocrinology and Nutrition at the Fundación Jiménez Díaz in Madrid distinguishes this drowsiness that arises after eating, usually a large meal, from the feeling of tiredness or sluggishness that can arise in some people and which is related to insulin.
“The latter is more delayed. It tends to happen in some people who have a sugary breakfast, for example, in the middle of the morning and has a very rapid peak in insulin secretion so that afterwards a drop in glucose occurs, and this produces a feeling of the neuronal shutdown, a feeling of lethargy or sluggishness. So some people say that they have to eat again because they feel sluggish,” says Dr Vázquez.
Foods that make you sleepier and how to avoid drowsiness
On this point, the expert in Nutrition also stresses that, in general, it is the copious intake of food that is responsible for this feeling of drowsiness. However, if we want to point to a series of foods, in particular, that make us sleepier, she points directly to fats, as they require more digestive work, as well as carbohydrates. “You eat a protein on its own, a piece of seafood or a piece of ham, and it doesn’t make you drowsy, but if you eat a foie gras with jam or a bun, things change,” warns the expert.
As for avoiding that drowsiness after eating, Dr Vázquez acknowledges that the only way to do so is to avoid large meals. However, she stresses that you should always have a little hunger after eating, and you should never eat until you feel full.
Drinking water or taking stimulants such as coffee or tea are other ways of relieving post-meal sluggishness. However, Vázquez draws attention to scientific studies that certify that a short nap of 20 minutes after a meal can benefit our state of health. Who would be lucky enough to be able to take a nap every day!