“After a delicious dinner, according to Archimedes’ law, you should sleep!” – for sure, this phrase is familiar to almost every person living in the post-Soviet space.
Indeed, who of us does not like to eat deliciously and then lie down in front of the TV, or maybe fall asleep for an hour?
Let’s find out whether it is possible, after all, to take a horizontal position immediately after a meal or not.
Probably many people think that they know the answer to this question. Obviously, “no” – you can’t lie right after eating. But why not? And how do you react to the statement that you can still sleep after eating? Is it possible or not?
Let’s look at this story, try to sort everything out on the shelves, and find out what doctors think about this.
Consequences of the horizontal position after eating
So, if a person takes a horizontal position immediately after eating, then the force of gravity ceases to help our body digesting and pushing the food lump through the digestive tract.
Normally, gravity moves food from the stomach into the lower duodenum. If a person lies down immediately after eating, food from the stomach enters the overlying section of the digestive tube (the esophagus – connects the stomach with the oral cavity ), and the so-called gastroesophageal reflux occurs.
When a person lies down, the lower esophageal sphincter – the cardiac sphincter ( muscle thickening at the bottom of the esophagus, which ensures the movement of food from the esophagus into the stomach and prevents its reverse movement ) begins to be gradually damaged by enzymes of gastric juice and hydrochloric acid, to which the stomach wall is not sensitive.
The ingress of food from the stomach into the esophagus is quite normal for children under one year old, since their lower esophageal sphincter is not fully developed.
With each meal, the damage progresses, at a certain point the sphincter ceases to function normally, and a gap remains between the stomach and esophagus.
Then a person develops a burning sensation, known to us as heartburn, which occurs as a result of irritation of the esophageal wall by the contents of the stomach.
It should be noted that GERD ( gastroesophageal reflux disease ) is one of the main factors in the occurrence of esophageal cancer since its epithelium (a layer of superficially located cells ) cannot endlessly recover and acquire its original appearance.
The so-called metaplasia of the epithelium of the esophagus occurs. According to a 2005 study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, patients with GERD should eat no later than 3 hours before bedtime.
Why do you want to sleep after eating?
So, we figured out why you can’t take a horizontal position after eating. What about sleep?
Let’s first understand why we want to sleep after eating. First of all, it should be said that the desire to take a nap after eating, to one degree or another, is present in almost everyone.
But the strength of this desire can be influenced by many factors. Features of the diet, health status, or just the habit of lying down after eating – all this can affect the strength of the desire to sleep every time after the next meal.
The following factors should be highlighted, which play a primary role in the occurrence of a feeling of sleepiness after eating:
- Strengthening blood circulation in the digestive system after eating, due to which the brain receives a slightly smaller volume of blood, as a result of which a feeling of drowsiness arises.
- The release of a neurotransmitter after eating (a biologically active chemical compound that transfers nerve impulses ) serotonin, which, in turn, adds a feeling of drowsiness.
- Formation of the so-called sleep hormone – melatonin, which is synthesized from serotonin.
The action of all these factors is brought together and makes a person want to sleep immediately after eating.
Sleepiness and type of food
Would you like to know how the type of food you eat affects your sleepiness after eating?
The basis of our diet is mainly protein foods:
In addition, we regularly consume carbohydrates:
- green vegetables;
Here it is worth noting the fact that it is with the consumption of protein foods and carbohydrates that the secretion of serotonin increases since it is synthesized from substances obtained with these products.
And serotonin, as mentioned earlier, is one of the factors in the appearance of a feeling of sleepiness.
Overeating further stimulates the feeling of sleepiness. This is due to the large amount of carbohydrates and other sources of glucose entering the body through food consumption. With an increase in the concentration of glucose in the blood, a feedback mechanism is triggered, and the amount of the neurotransmitter orexin decreases. Orexin performs the function of keeping the body awake. When overeating, a person gets more glucose, which means that the level of orexin drops even more compared to meals in the right quantities.
Why is sleep after eating dangerous?
But what will happen if you fall asleep after eating? In fact, there are pros and cons to answering this question.
The negative side of the issue is that after a plentiful, heavy meal, naturally, sleep is contraindicated, since all metabolic processes slow down during sleep, and the body converts the received calories into adipose tissue.
That is why it is very important for people who are looking to lose weight to monitor the intervals between meals and sleep.
While walking, a middle-aged person weighing 60 – 65 kg spends about 200 kilocalories, the same person spends about 38 kilocalories per hour of sleep.
Sleep after eating is especially dangerous for people with heart disease, high blood cholesterol levels, and high blood pressure since they have a higher risk of heart attacks with this habit.
Another negative side of the issue is the fact that the sleep itself after eating will not be of good quality.
Our body cannot tune in to healthy sleep with a full stomach, it has to digest the amount of food received, and the brain, in addition, needs to produce neurotransmitters ( neurotransmitters, an example of which, for example, the aforementioned serotonin ), which are responsible for the body’s immersion into a dream.
Thus, neither one nor the other process is proceeding as it should, in addition to everything, you will wake up with a feeling of heaviness and heartburn.
Is there a healthy meal before bedtime?
And here is the sensational statement!
Eating just before bedtime can be beneficial. The main thing is to eat the right foods.
Everyone knows that some people are not averse to eating even at night, which is even worse than sleeping immediately after eating, since getting up at night is a violation of sleep phases, and eating at night only enhances the formation of adipose tissue in the body.
To combat this phenomenon, during the experiment, people were offered, right before going to bed, to eat something light, for example, cereal with milk in small quantities.
As a result, the observers found that the patients’ sleep patterns were not disturbed, they even lost a little weight.
Another important factor is that the quality of sleep can be improved by eating a few nuts, a slice of kiwi, berries with a high content of antioxidants ( for example, blueberries ) before going to bed, or drinking a glass of milk or yogurt.
It is believed that a glass of warm milk will help you relax, and kiwi and bananas contain substances that will help you fall asleep (the sleep hormone melatonin is synthesized from these substances ).
A light snack before bed can help maintain blood glucose levels. Normally, in the morning, an increased amount of glucose is synthesized in the body, which is necessary in order to wake up and start a new day.
In response to this, the hormone insulin is produced in the pancreas ( it is necessary for glucose to enter the cell ).
Most often, problems with the level of glucose in the blood occur in people with diabetes mellitus ( in the morning they have it increased ), so doctors recommend that they have a snack before bedtime.
The same is prescribed by doctors and patients with low blood glucose. But remember that you should not resort to such a solution on your own, be sure to consult your doctor.
What to do to stay awake right after eating?
To avoid feeling sleepy after eating, you should:
- There is little, but often (it helps in the fight against drowsiness, plus everything, you increase the production of energy in the body ).
- You should eat in a balanced way. The diet should contain vegetables, grains, and fats in order for the energy produced to last for a longer period.
- Avoid consuming simple sugars ( carbohydrates that quickly enter the bloodstream and are used as an energy source, such as baked goods, chocolate, juices, etc. ).
- Drinking the right amount of fluids, as feeling thirsty can also contribute to drowsiness.
- Sleep a sufficient amount of time, while sleep should be of good quality.
- Taking a walk ( especially after eating, it will help you feel less tired ).
- Taking a nap during the day (of course, not immediately after eating!) The ideal time for daytime sleep is considered from 14:00 to 15:00, after about an hour ( doctors recommend not to take a horizontal position for at least 20-30 minutes ), after You dined. The nap should last about 30 minutes, but not more than an hour.
- Stay in well-lit and ventilated areas.
- Avoid alcohol consumption ( after drinking alcohol, the feeling of fatigue and sleepiness increases dramatically ).
Some more interesting facts
- People who suffer from heartburn are advised to sleep on their left side. This is due to the fact that in this position, the chyme ( stomach contents ) will smoothly go to the lower gastrointestinal tract ( gastrointestinal tract ), while lying on the right side increases the risk of irritation of the cardiac esophageal sphincter and food back into the esophagus. Ideally, however, it is better not to eat 3 hours before bedtime. According to a number of researchers, this time is enough for food from the stomach to enter the lower gastrointestinal tract, thus reducing the risk of heartburn.
- In addition to heartburn and belching, lying down after eating can cause acidity, and regularly falling asleep right after a meal greatly increases the risk of strokes.
- The protagonist of Oblomov was an example of how we should not act. His habit was afternoon nap, and he preferred fatty foods, pies, and kulebyaki to eat. Doesn’t that sound very tempting? Probably, from these habits, Oblomov’s life was called a “sleepy kingdom.”
- A number of Western companies in the middle of the 20th century allowed their employees to sleep in the afternoon for a while. This was argued by the fact that sleep will increase efficiency, activity and restore the strength of the staff. But the studies carried out after this experiment revealed that neither the activity nor the working capacity of people after sleep not only did not increase but even, on the contrary, significantly decreased.
- Today’s popular singer Taylor Swift admits that she needs a snack before bed, otherwise she cannot fall asleep.
- According to research carried out by American scientists, the quality of the food you eat all day affects your sleep. So, if a person eats balanced during the day, then he falls asleep after 17 minutes after going to bed. The next day he slept and full of energy. Just one day, when a person consumes more fat and less vegetables, already leads to sleep disturbances. After such a “wrong” diet, sleep becomes intermittent, shallow, and the next day people feel tired.
- Sleeping immediately after eating does not harm the child’s body. It is not for nothing that in kindergartens, a quiet hour is appointed almost immediately after lunch. This is explained by the fact that in children all systems of the body, including the stomach, are more elastic, so phenomena such as belching or heartburn at a young age are not terrible. And overeating is a more “adult” problem.
- Scientists have proven that the optimal time for daytime sleep is 25.8 minutes. During the experiment, pilots who slept during the day became 50% more alert, and their productivity increased 34% compared to their colleagues who did not sleep during the day. From this, it follows that you do not need to sleep longer during the day, otherwise your productivity will not only not increase, but only decrease, and you will feel sleepy. The same studies have shown that naps help to increase the duration of your youthfulness, reduce the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and help fight depression.