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Why do we feel sleepy after a heavy lunch?

Best thing to happen on a holiday afternoon is to have a heavy lunch and sleep automatically comes to us. Why do people feel sleepy after a heavy lunch? Is it just a state of mind or does something happen chemically in our brain?

Eating a heavy meal shuts off the neurons in our brain that generally keep us awake and alert due to increase in levels of blood glucose. There are a set of neurons in hypothalamus of our brain called orexin neurons that produce chemicals (proteins) called orexins that keep us active and awake.
These neurons are less active in night making us fall asleep.

A heavy meal, rich in carbohydrates increases the levels of glucose in our body. Glucose inhibits these orexin neurons making us feel sleepy even in the day. This is also the main cause for not getting sleep when we are hungry. During hunger, the levels of glucose in blood becomes really low making these orexin neurons active and we don’t get sleep.

This is also felt in other animals and is natures’ way of telling us to minimize the energy consumption once we got our food. Improper functioning of orexin neurons can lead to obesity as well as conditions with lack of sleep

-Hemachandra K,
Research Scholar, TIFR, Mumbai.
Published date : 11 Mar 2013 12:50PM

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