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How to Avoid Feeling Drowsy After Lunch

Three Methods:Understanding the Causes of Afternoon DrowsinessChanging Your Eating Habits to Avoid Afternoon DrowsinessTaking Other Measures to Defeat Afternoon Drowsiness

After eating a delicious lunch, many of us tend to fall into a slight afternoon stupor. That's why people in Spain often take siestas. To beat a case of the afternoon slump, it's important to pay attention to what you're eating, as well as making sure that you're giving yourself adequate care overall. You can help sustain your afternoon energy by eating healthy foods, getting adequate sleep, and moving around after lunch. Keep reading to learn more about how to avoid feeling drowsy after lunch.

Method 1
Understanding the Causes of Afternoon Drowsiness

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    Be aware that feeling sleepy after lunch is related to digestion. The main reason why you get sleepy after lunch is because food that you eat for lunch diverts your blood away from your brain to help with the digestion process. Your body also releases a bit of melatonin after lunch, which is a hormone that helps you fall asleep at night.[1]
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    Consider how much sleep you have been getting. A post lunch slump may be worse if you haven't had enough sleep the night before. Adults need about 7-8 hours of sleep per night to function at their best, so try to go to bed in time to get enough sleep each night. If you are suffering from insomnia, talk to your doctor to determine the cause.
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    Ask yourself if your eating habits may be contributing to your afternoon drowsiness. While a post-lunch slump is normal, inadequate or poor nutrition may make your afternoon drowsiness worse. To determine how to avoid feeling sleepy after lunch, consider the following questions:
    • Do I eat breakfast every day?
    • Is my breakfast providing me with nutritional energy? (more than just coffee)
    • Have I been eating healthy lunches?
      • If your answer to any of these questions is no, then you should evaluate your eating habits to help make your post-lunch slump less severe.[2]
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    Track the habits that make you sleepy in a food diary. Write down when you feel drowsy, what you ate, whether you had exercised or not, how well you slept the night before, and any other factors that might be involved. Do this over a week, and at the end of the week, analyze the data you have recorded. Look for patterns so that you can learn to avoid any habits that cause drowsiness problems for you.

Method 2
Changing Your Eating Habits to Avoid Afternoon Drowsiness

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    Eat a good breakfast. Never skip breakfast because it sets the energy standard for the rest of the day. Make healthy food choices such as wholegrain breads and cereals, fruits, and yogurt, to provide you with sustained energy for the morning. Eating breakfast helps you to feel less tempted to resort to unhealthy food choices at lunchtime and increases your physical and mental well-being throughout the day.[3] Good breakfast choices include:
    • cereal with skim milk and a piece of fresh fruit
    • two slices of whole wheat toast topped with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter and a banana
    • a multigrain bagel topped with a scrambled egg and a slice of low-fat cheese and a glass of orange juice
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    Choose healthy lunches over high fat lunches and fast food. Most fast food is junk food, packed full of fats, sugars, salts, preservatives, and flavor enhancers.[4] It tastes great on the spot and it feels like an energy boost but it has filled you with calories that lack nutrients, and is a very unhealthy fuel for your body.
    • If you must get your lunch from a fast food place, choose items that are baked or broiled instead of fried and skip the French fries.[5]
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    Stick to whole grains and avoid processed sugar and flour. As delicious as buns, croissants, muffins, and cakes are, as well as a pasta meal, these are all energy slump-inducers in disguise. Gabe Mirkin, MD, recommends avoiding pastries, pasta, and baked goods if you want to stay awake, as their high flour and sugar content will bring on drowsiness.[6] Choosing unprocessed over processed or refined foods is a guaranteed healthier way to feeling better after lunch.
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    Eat a complex-carbohydrate, high-protein lunch. Instead of choosing processed foods and starchy sides, make sure that your lunch is balanced and healthy. Opt for a lunch that features veggies as the main attraction, and also includes a serving of whole grains and lean protein.[7] Build high energy lunches with the following food types:
    • Sprouts, green beans, lettuce, mustard greens, radicchio, bok choy, sea vegetables, cabbage, mushrooms, radishes, celery, avocado, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, summer squash, zucchini, bamboo shoots, onions, tomatoes, artichokes, carrots, water chestnuts, pumpkin, etc.[8]
    • Whole wheat bread, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat crackers, bulgur wheat, quinoa, etc.
    • Chickpeas, egg, chicken breast, tuna, tofu, turkey breast, etc.[9]
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    Eat less. A large meal takes more effort to digest, so it is more likely to make you feel drowsy. Instead of eating large lunches, eat a smaller meals throughout the day. Balance a small lunch with mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks so that you get all of your recommended calories throughout the day. If you plan to try eating small meals throughout the day, make sure that you don’t go more than three hours without eating.[10]
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    Eat healthy mid-afternoon snacks. Good snacks to reach for mid-afternoon are those that won't deplete your energy but will boost it. Avoid the temptation to fuel yourself on a chocolate bar and choose a piece of fruit, some crackers with low-fat string cheese, or a handful of almonds instead.[11]

Method 3
Taking Other Measures to Defeat Afternoon Drowsiness

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    Skip the wine or beer with lunch. While a stressful day may make a beer or glass of wine with lunch seem like a nice idea, it will make you drowsy so you should avoid having alcohol with lunch. Alcohol is a sedative and even one glass will leave you feeling fatigued for the remainder of the day.[12]
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    Curb your caffeine intake after lunch. Although caffeine is renowned for its ability to improve our alertness, it can become a case of diminishing returns if you need to keep increasing the dosage because its effect has lessened over time. Needing to up the caffeine is unhealthy because you can easily end up having too much caffeine, crashing quickly after it wears off each time, and ultimately you risk developing a caffeine addiction.
    • Switch to decaffeinated or non-caffeinated drinks to get you through the afternoon. Water is an excellent choice, as it is also important to keep well hydrated throughout the day. As an added bonus, it provides you with an excuse to stroll to the water-cooler now and then.
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    Exercise after eating your lunch. After eating, it is a good idea to get out and do some light exercise. Take a walk for a few blocks, do some basic stretches, use the stairs instead of the elevator, or do a few jumping jacks in the restroom — whatever you can think of that fits with your schedule and location. Light exercise after eating will help get your blood flowing and will help to ward off fatigue.[13]
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    See your doctor. If you're suffering from excessive drowsiness after eating lunch, you may want to see your doctor for a checkup. There are medical conditions that can cause drowsiness, including iron or other nutrient deficiencies, insulin resistance or diabetes, hypoglycemia, or other medical problems. Diagnosis and treatment is something only your doctor can do.


  • While sports drinks can give you an initial boost, don't rely on them for a regular source of energy. Not only are some high in caffeine and sugar, neither of which are healthy in large doses, but relying on them is not a substitute for good nutrition.
  • Ask your children and teens about their energy levels after lunch. If they (or their teachers) are reporting energy slumps after lunch, it is probably time to reassess what's going into their lunchbox or to look at the meals they are purchasing. Good nutrition for children is of the utmost importance. Have a look at Pack Vegetarian School Lunches and Pack a Lunch Box.
  • It is important to give yourself a relaxed, enjoyable atmosphere in which to eat lunch. Try to leave the office or workroom and get some fresh air. This is about nourishing your spirit as much as your stomach, and will help improve your afternoon enthusiasm and productivity.
  • Try to eat slowly, lunch taken in a rush will stimulate your system to release unnecessary chemicals in a rush and will eventually leave you feeling fatigued.
  • Even if you only have ten minutes to eat something, make sure that it is nutritious. If you are asked to a restaurant, choose the lighter food.
  • Though this may not be feasible with your work schedule, you can plan to have a short 15 minute nap after lunch and it will help prevent you from feeling drowsy for the rest of the day, and can improve your productivity.[14]


  • Consult a doctor before making any major decisions about your diet or health.
  • Chronic fatigue immunological disorders such as fibromyalgia can make this post-meal nap a necessity. If these measures don't work and you have fibromyalgia, consider telling your boss that a post-lunch nap is a disability adaptation. If you can take a nap at work and feel refreshed, that's a practical solution to the problem - much more effective than trying to function while half asleep.

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