We've all been there... Moments after consuming three plates of food at Grandma's house for Thanksgiving dinner, you start to feel too full and too sleepy to function. You couldn't help it! Your grandmother put in a little extra work this year, serving all of your favorite dishes. How could you possibly turn all of that food down? It feels as if you could never eat another bite of food again, and you yearn for a long, uninterrupted nap. 

It turns out, you are not alone. Millions of people have experienced a food coma, or "postprandial somnolence", multiple times in their lives. It's completely normal.

What is postprandial somnolence?

This fancy, scientific term is another word for that food coma you may have experienced after eating a big meal. When our bodies are bombarded with large quantities of food, our digestive system kicks into high gear. Most of the body's energy focuses on breaking down the carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals in order to extract all essential nutrients. This causes a slight decrease in blood flow to the brain, which may be a reason we feel so "blah" after scarfing down all those calories.

Why do we feel so tired?

There are multiple science-backed theories that many health professionals believe causes the post-feast slump.

Some theories are widely accepted among doctors and researchers, while others are less common. Here are the top reasons why you feel like taking a long, winters nap after eating a large meal. 


Overeating has been shown to cause high gastric distention, or stretching of the stomach to properly handle the quantity of food. When we eat more, our stomach stretches more, and the drowsy effects skyrocket.

In an article on the topic of food comas by CNN, Dr. William Orr, a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center explained, "If you have a large meal, the (degree of) gastric distention and hormonal stimulation that occurs will make you sleepier than if you had a bowl of soup." 

It's the process of digestion. It takes a large bulk of energy to break down, digest, and absorb all of that food you just happily consumed. Your blood sugar and hormone levels will spike, a natural response to a high quantity of food entering the body. 

High Protein and Salt

Researchers found in a recent study that high quantities of sodium (hello, salt!) and protein may be attributed to the drowsiness that we feel post-feast. The human body must work harder to extract the nutrients and benefits from these complex components, causing fatigue.

Our Internal Clock

Our circadian rhythm, or the body's internal clock, may also be to blame. We are likely more susceptible to falling into a food coma post-meal due to how our individual sleep patterns are genetically set. The 2 o'clock slump is a real thing, as early afternoon biologically causes a decrease in brain arousal and makes us feel drowsy.


Alcohol, a natural depressant, will slow all bodily processes down. After feasting upon a large meal and topping it off with a drink (or two), the body will naturally begin to feel drowsy due to the digestive process. Alcohol consumption will only magnify that feeling of lethargy, not to mention give you the confidence to have another slice of pie.

So all in all, yes, food comas are real. When you eat those creamy, cheddar mashed potatoes, some freshly carved turkey with extra gravy, a cup or two of Southern veggies, topped off with cranberry sauce, pecan pie, and a scoop of vanilla ice cream, you're putting your digestive system through some stress. So, go ahead, take a break with a post-dinner nap.