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Why do we feel sleepy after a big meal?

Is it true that you become more sluggish because blood is rushing to your digestive system?

4546 day(s) ago

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No. The amount of extra blood circulation to your digestive organs isn't enough to impact the rest of your body. The sleepiness is a result of a chemical reaction in your brain that seems to be linked to both sleeping disorders and obesity.

When you eat a large meal, glucose levels in your blood increase, shutting off orexin neurons. These cells, located in the hypothalamus, release alertness chemicals called orexins. They release fewer orexins at night, making us sleepy.

It's believed this reaction is an adaptation to keep us alert when we need food and then conserve energy once we've eaten.

Malfunctioning orexin neurons can result in narcolepsy, which results in constant tiredness and often obesity. Sleep deprivation can also interrupt orexin production.

At the same time studies were being done on orexin and sleep, other studies were linking sleep deprivation to increased food intake. It's believed that the two are linked: fluctuations in blood glucose levels and sleep deprivation can disrupt regular orexin production, resulting in obesity. Tests in mice have borne this out, with orexin-deficient mice becoming obese even if their food intake is the same as regular mice. If human trials are conclusive, we may soon have orexin-based treatments for weight loss.

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