- Postprandial somnolence is the tired, sleepy feeling many experience after a big meal
- The extent to which sleepiness is induced depends on the magnitude of the meal
(CNN)You've just finished a big meal, and you're stuffed. You're thinking of taking a walk or even a stretch before clearing the table, but the thought of just getting out of your chair seems like a challenge.
Blood flow shifts
Bigger meals have more effects
Hormone theories: CCK, serotonin and tryptophan
Protein, fat and circadian rhythms
Preventing a food coma
- Eat small meals. The bigger the meal, the greater the chance you'll be drowsy. "We have to consciously put small amounts of food on our plates," says Levitsky. At lunchtime, small portions are especially important, because the lunchtime dip in arousal compounds the effects. "If I want to avoid postprandial sleepiness, I will have a light lunch, because I know no matter what, at 1 or 2 p.m., I will be sleepy, even if I don't eat anything," Orr said.
- Have an early lunch. "If you eat at 1 p.m., that's right at the time of the endogenous circadian dip," Orr said. It's better to eat an earlier lunch about 11:45 a.m. rather than a later lunch at, say, 1 or 1:30, right when that dip occurs.
- Choose liquids over solids. That doesn't mean lunch has to be limited to smoothies, though occasionally they're fine as a mini meal. "If you have a salad or a bowl of soup as opposed to a hamburger -- something with more of a liquid consistency, with a higher water content -- that's better," Orr said.
- Opt for carbs that are low on the glycemic index over ones that are high. Low-GI carbs include whole wheat bread, oatmeal, beans, peas, most fruits and non-starchy vegetables. Limit white bread, white rice, bagels, pretzels and crackers.
- Grab a cup of coffee. "You can counter the effects of sleepiness after a meal by consuming caffeine," Levitsky said. A cup of coffee or cappuccino should suffice. Though caffeine can serve as a helpful stimulant, too much can lead to restlessness and can interfere with sleep later on.
- Skip the wine and martinis. "Alcohol is a sedative, so this just adds to the drowsiness," Orr explained. If you enjoy a drink with a meal, choose dinnertime over lunch, and limit yourself to one beverage.