Sleep Off That Food Coma Before Getting on the Road!

Dirty dishes piled high on the counter. The TV turned on to a football game, even though no one is watching. Someone snoring in the cozy armchair, while someone else snoozes on the couch. This is a familiar post-meal scene, particularly around holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. But did you know that there is actually a scientific term for this kind of post-feast exhaustion?

After Dinner, Hello Food Coma!

This phenomenon is officially called postprandial somnolence. But many people know it by a different name: the food coma! Caused by overeating or by eating certain foods, postprandial somnolence is characterized by tiredness and a lack of energy. When we eat, the stomach produces a hormone called gastrin, which causes the secretion of digestive juices. At the same time, a hormone called enterogastrone, which controls blood flow regulation, also increases its secretion. When blood flow shifts toward the stomach during digestion, the rest of the body receives less blood than usual. This is what makes us feel tired, unmotivated, or even lightheaded after a big meal.

Frequent Culprits

Turkey, a popular holiday dish, is frequently cited as a reason for post-meal tiredness, because it contains an amino acid called tryptophan. Similarly, other foods are thought to increase the chances of a food coma, including:

  • Bananas and other foods with high magnesium levels, like pumpkin seeds and halibut
  • White breads
  • Cherries
  • Red meat

Some foods might make you feel particularly sleepy, but since postprandial somnolence is caused by the digestive process, it can be the result of eating any food. Overeating in particular can lead to a food coma, since it gives the body more food  to digest. This is why food-centric holidays, like Thanksgiving, tend to result in a big post-meal energy crash!

Unlike a true coma, a food coma isn’t dangerous or long-term. Generally, it can be cured by a quick nap, and who doesn’t love an excuse to nap?! But while the food coma itself isn’t dangerous, getting back on the road after a big meal can be.

The Dangers of Drowsy Driving

When people drive while tired, like after a restless night, a long day, or a big meal, they have a slowed reaction time, limited attention, and compromised decision making abilities. On the road, drivers need to be alert at all times, and they simply can’t do this if they aren’t feeling fully awake. When they aren’t fully awake, they could cause an accident — and statistics prove that they do. One in every six fatal accidents is caused by a drowsy driving, with 12.5% of drowsy driving accidents leading to serious injuries and hospitalizations.

Luckily, drowsy driving can be easily prevented, even after a food coma! Drivers should rest before driving if they are feeling fatigued, particularly if they have a long drive ahead of them. While on the roads, tired drivers should pull over for a quick rest if they are feeling tired, or better yet, have someone else in the car who can take over driving duties for a while.

To avoid drowsy driving this holiday season, simply let that meal digest, give yourself a break, and of course, don’t forget to claim that comfy armchair before someone else does!


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.

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