How to avoid feeling sleepy after breakfast

Breakfast in the morning elevates blood sugar levels and staves off hunger pangs throughout the day (which can also make you tired). Plus, if you eat breakfast, you may not eat as much at lunch. Eating more food than the body can easily process at a time can cause post-dining fatigue. So eating more in the morning and smaller portions throughout the day can help you feel perkier after eating.

2. Hydration is key

Did you overdo it at lunch because you were simply too hungry? Be careful: many people mistake feeling thirsty for being hungry. 

Make sure to drink enough water throughout the day. You can calculate how much water you should drink here:

3. Exercise to prevent feeling sleepy

A short stroll outside can work wonders after lunch. The fresh air and exercise supply your brain with plenty of oxygen. If you can’t go outside, open the window and take some deep breaths. Or do 20 squats – they won’t take long and they will get your blood pumping.

Remember: exercise on an empty stomach or without enough nutrition can deplete energy in the muscles and mind. Be sure to get adequate nutrition, especially if you workout!

4. Limit you caffeine intake

If you think you have to drink five cups of coffee to finally wake up, remember this German saying: “Viel hilft nicht immer viel” (a lot doesn’t always help a lot). One or two caffeinated drinks are okay because they stimulate the release of adrenaline. But more has the opposite effect: you’ll likely feel so amped up that you struggle to focus, and as soon as the adrenaline wanes, you’ll be triggered to search for more adrenal input. 

Many people experience a “caffeine high” for up to five hours after ingestion. If you are looking for a boost of energy, don’t wait too long after lunch to have your cup of joe. Otherwise, you might have trouble sleeping at night.

5. Take a power nap

Of course, not everyone has the luxury of taking a short power nap. But, many companies nowadays have quiet rooms where their employees can rest for 10-20 minutes. This is the maximum length of time you should sleep in order to wake up refreshed. If you sleep longer, you might end up feeling more tired than you did before. Learn more about the healthy benefits of power naps!

6. Have tasty lunch

Just because you’re sleepy after eating doesn’t mean you should stop eating. Try eating smaller portions of well-balanced meals throughout the day to keep energy levels stable. 


Are you looking for a tasty lunch that won’t sit in your stomach all afternoon? You can prepare this fruity quinoa salad in the evening and eat it the next day for lunch at work.

To avoid feeling drowsy after lunch, try eating smaller lunches since a big meal can make you tired. Also, avoid eating fast foods or processed foods for lunch, which can zap your energy and make you feel more drowsy. Instead, eat a healthy meal that has fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. You can also avoid feeling drowsy after lunch by going for a quick walk or doing some stretches to get your blood flowing. To learn about possible underlying causes for afternoon drowsiness, keep reading.

Did this summary help you?YesNo

Thanks to all authors for creating a page that has been read 1,682,762 times.

This article explains some theories about why you may feel sleepy after meals and offers some ideas for staying alert after eating.

How to avoid feeling sleepy after breakfast
How to avoid feeling sleepy after breakfast

torwai / Getty Images

Elements in Food

There are certain elements within food that can cause sleepiness. However, usually the amounts are small and have little effect on a person's ability to stay alert. Some things in food that are known sleep inducers include:

  • Melatonin: There are minuscule levels of the hormone called melatonin in some foods. Although melatonin has an essential role in the timing of sleep, the low levels within food are unlikely to affect sleepiness significantly.
  • Tryptophan: Some other foods might make you feel a little sleepy, most notably turkey and foods that contain an amino acid called tryptophan. The body converts tryptophan to serotonin and then to melatonin. As noted above, this can enhance sleepiness. However, the effects are likely modest.
  • Alcohol: In addition, drinking alcohol may cause drowsiness. It does this because it enhances the effects of adenosine. However, in most cases, this is not what contributes to feeling sleepy after lunch.
  • Carbohydrates: Meals heavy in carbohydrates—which your body converts to sugar—can cause your blood sugar to rise and then crash. This drop in sugar levels can also make you sleepy after eating.

Why Am I Always Tired?

Sleep Drive and Circadian Rhythm

Post-lunch sleepiness often has more to do with the natural timing of an increased tendency towards sleep than the food you consume. Two phenomena contribute to this. They include:

  • Sleep drive: The sleep drive is due to the gradual build-up of a chemical within the brain called adenosine. This chemical reaches its peak right before bedtime, but it is also higher in the afternoon compared to the morning. Thus, the longer a person stays awake, the more adenosine accumulates, increasing the desire for sleep.
  • Circadian rhythm: The second process that contributes indirectly to sleepiness is the circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm functions like a clock that controls periods of wakefulness and sleep. It increases throughout the day to keep you awake and counteract the increasing levels of adenosine.

There is a dip in this pattern in the early afternoon. This lull typically occurs seven to nine hours after waking up. When the alerting signal dips, the underlying sleepiness shows itself, and you feel sleepy.

Most people naturally feel sleepy between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

Interestingly, night owls (who may naturally fall asleep and wake later) often experience a delay in the timing of this afternoon lull as well. As a result, they may not feel sleepy until several hours later.

Easing Post-Meal Drowsiness

While you may not be able to avoid it entirely, there are some things you can try to counteract the sleepiness that occurs after meals:

  • Eat well-balanced meals. Avoiding meals heavy in carbohydrates or proteins can help you avoid increases in blood sugar (and subsequent crashes) and maintain adenosine levels.
  • Get more nighttime sleep. If you experience sleep deprivation, this after-lunch sleepiness can be more pronounced. In addition, sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea may make this worse.
  • Expose yourself to enough daylight. Circadian rhythms are impacted by sunlight. Our bodies are more alert when exposed to light, and less alert when it's dark.
  • Get regular exercise. The impact of exercise on sleep is well known. However, be sure to pay attention to when you exercise. For some, exercising too close to bedtime can make it harder to fall asleep.
  • Nap for 10 to 20 minutes. Sometimes, a post-meal nap is an option. But keep it short; anything longer than 20 minutes or so could impact your ability to sleep at your normal time.

A Word From Verywell

It's not uncommon to feel sleepy after eating a meal. Fortunately, if you tough it out, this period will pass. Then, as the circadian rhythm revs back up, you will find that you feel more alert again in a matter of hours. This natural pattern occurs typically, even without a cup of coffee or a nap.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are there certain foods that make you sleepy?

    Yes. Some of these include kiwi, tart or sour cherries, malted milk, fatty fish like salmon, walnuts, rice, and certain varieties of red grapes. Foods that are rich with carbohydrates are also known to induce fatigue.

  • What should I eat if I feel tired during the day?

    A small amount of fruit and nuts can give your brain a boost. Staying hydrated will also help fight drowsiness. When planning meals, try for smaller portions throughout the day instead of three big meals.

    How do I stop feeling sleepy after breakfast?

    How to stop feeling tired after eating.
    Eat little and often. Rather than eating big meals, eat smaller meals and snacks every few hours to keep up energy levels. ... .
    Get good-quality sleep. ... .
    Go for a walk. ... .
    Take a short nap during the day..
    Try bright-light therapy. ... .
    Avoid drinking alcohol with meals..

    Why do I feel so sleepy after breakfast?

    “Oftentimes, when you're eating a meal rich in carbohydrates and protein, you may feel sleepier because you have an uptake of tryptophan from the protein and then an increase of serotonin,” explains Zumpano. Eating also causes your blood sugar levels to rise, which can lead to a decrease in energy.

    Is it OK to sleep after breakfast?

    It is recommended that you stop eating about three hours before you plan to go to bed. This will give your body enough time to properly digest the food you have eaten without disrupting your sleep, but also allowing time to notice any symptoms of acid reflux or any other digestion related irritation.