“Post-lunch dip,” as experts called it, is a natural phenomenon and the culprit may just be what you ate.
It's past 12 pm. You just chowed down a burger and suddenly felt heavy. At the back of your mind, you think you're tired; after all, you've been working the whole morning. You're probably right; the post-lunch dip exists, and during this, a lot of things happen to your body.
According to NY Times, this may be due to your body's circadian rhythm. Humans tend to "dip" after seven hours of being awake. At lunch, you are on your resting phase; the time when your body gradually pushes to its homeostatic period which pushes for rest as it measures the amount of time you have been awake.
However, if you're sleepier than normal, another culprit may just be your food. Huffington Post disclosed that the body uses a big amount of energy to digest all the stuff you just ate. According to their interview with Robbie Clark, a sports nutritionist, the body, in order to work, requires energy. This is fuelled by food which is broken down through the digestive process which of course, uses energy too.
Another reason? Insulin. This hormone, produced after eating carb-rich meals, makes one feel happier, and consequently, sleepier. Insulin is produced in the pancreas; they are converted into glucose and circulates into the bloodstream. While it may be helpful, excessive secretion of insulin may cause tryptophan, an essential amino acid, to move into the brain. This leads to increased melatonin and serotonin, two known sleep regulators.
Carbohydrate-rich foods – pasta, rice, potatoes, bread and your favourite desserts – make you happy, but they can also boost your need for sleep. This may be the reason why you feel heavier and more sluggish after a heavy meal.
Food NDTV seconded this fact. In India, sneaking an afternoon nap is a common practice. Shop owners in Bengal close their doors from 3 -5 pm to catch up on sleep, especially after eating their carb-rich meal.
While post-lunch dips are natural, not everyone has it with the same intensity. Professor David Dinges of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine shares that some people don't dip at all, and there are those who are “closet nappers” – ones who fall asleep at their desk.
This may be associated with laziness, but Dinges says it could be a factor to improve one's productivity. In one study, it was found that drivers encountered more accidents during afternoon dips and 7 pm. Dinges then suggests that one should take short afternoon naps in order to catch up with their body’s resting cycle and wake up refreshed.
It’s either you sleep, or make better lunch choices
Consumption of fatty meals can make you feel sleepy because the body works overtime and uses larger chunks of energy to break down food. Not all foods affect the body the same way; high-protein foods such as cheese, eggs, fish and tofu contain high amounts of tryptophan and induces sleep. White bread can also be a factor to your afternoon heaviness; this fibre-less starch and refined-sugar rich food causes a spike on your blood glucose, making you feel tired.
How to get through your dips
- Make sure to eat your breakfast. Don't skip on your power meal; it sets the energy standard for the entire day and will help you reduce feeling of tiredness later on. Plus, you may make poorer lunch choices if you are hungry the whole morning.
- Eat small meals throughout the days. Tinier portions require smaller energy to digest compared to bigger meals. Snacking helps; it allows you to get your required calorie intake and keep your blood sugar steady all throughout the day.
- Skip the starches; instead, choose natural high-fibre rich foods such as whole grains, lean meat and vegetables.
- Move around. Exercising keeps your body alert by regulating the circulation of blood and oxygen around the brain and body.
In cases when your after-lunch drowsies are inevitable, give in to it. Allow your body to recuperate from digesting that satisfying lunch and gain the energy back for work.