Is falling asleep after eating a sign of diabetes?

Is falling asleep after eating a sign of diabetes?
Medically reviewed by Dr. Ola Tarabzuni

Overview

We have all experienced sleepiness after eating a meal, but can this feeling be a cause for concern? It can be. Falling asleep after a meal can be an early sign of diabetes. There are various causes for people with diabetes to experience post-meal tiredness. It can be due to poor lifestyle habits, such as diet, fatigue, irregular sleep, or underlying medical conditions. Treatment can vary depending on the underlying cause. Prescription medications are provided for serious conditions, such as raised or low blood sugar, inflammation, or hypertension. In other cases, adopting good lifestyle habits can help with feeling drowsy after eating. Keep reading to know how feeling sleepy after eating is a sign of diabetes.

Is falling asleep after eating a sign of diabetes?

Feeling sleepy after eating (postprandial somnolence) is a common experience, but consistent post-meal drowsiness can be a sign of diabetes. Under normal conditions, digestion or eating a large meal can result in feeling sleepy, but it can look different for people with diabetes. They can start nodding off soon after eating because of rapid changes in their blood sugar levels.

When we eat, our body breaks down food into glucose, which fuels the muscles and the brain. When this glucose enters the bloodstream, the pancreas releases a hormone called Insulin, which helps cells absorb energy.

People with diabetes either produce insufficient insulin (Type 1 diabetes) or develop insulin resistance (type 2 diabetes). This results in them not getting enough fuel from food, causing sleepiness.

Unmanaged diabetes can lead to kidney failure and heart problems. Consult a doctor to get a proper diagnosis and treatment.

How to know if post-meal sleepiness is because of diabetes?

If you have diabetes, drowsiness and fatigue after eating can almost always be accompanied by other symptoms. If you see or experience any signs after meals, you should talk to a medical professional for a proper diagnosis. Here are some of the symptoms people suffering from diabetes can experience, along with fatigue

  • Frequent urination
  • Blurred vision
  • Weight loss
  • Mood swings
  • Tingling sensation or numbness in hands and feet
  • Irritability 
  • Dry skin
  • Slow wound healing

Why do people with diabetes feel sleepy after eating?

Various causes, from medical conditions to lifestyle choices, can cause people with diabetes to feel sleepy after eating. Let’s explore the leading causes of post-meal drowsiness for people with diabetes. 

Blood sugar control 

Eating food causes rapid changes in the blood sugar levels of people with diabetes. People with diabetes may feel sleepy when blood sugar levels rise too high (hyperglycemia) or fall too low (hypoglycemia). This drop in energy levels is commonly known as a “sugar crash.”

Insulin sensitivity

Insulin sensitivity is one of the big reasons people with diabetes experience drowsiness after a meal. People with diabetes either don’t produce enough insulin, or their bodies are unable to utilize it correctly. This prevents them from getting proper energy from food, causing them to feel sleepy. 

Inflammation

Inflammation affects the insulin pathways involved in glucose metabolism. This can decrease energy levels and result in sleepiness after meals. Eating pro-inflammatory foods or not treating chronic inflammation for a long time can contribute to type 2 diabetes. 

Fatigue

Multiple factors, such as poor diet, poor sleep, hormone imbalances, dehydration, and some existing health problems, can cause fatigue in people with diabetes. Fatigue combined with already limited energy production of people with diabetes can cause them to experience drowsiness after eating.

Depression

Diabetes and depression share the symptoms of fatigue and sleepiness. People with either type of diabetes can experience depression, which can lead to a lack of energy and drowsiness. Both conditions can worsen the effects of each other if not treated properly. If you are feeling exhausted or experiencing frequent fatigue, seek immediate medical help. 

High blood pressure

People with diabetes struggle with keeping blood pressure levels regularly and can often get high blood pressure (hypertension) after a passage of time.  According to a 2018 research comparing hypertension and diabetes found that 85% of people with diabetes end up getting hypertension in the fifth decade of their life. 

Insulin problems can leave irregulated glucose to build up in the bloodstream. High glucose levels can lead to increased blood pressure. This causes fatigue, loss of appetite, and post-meal drowsiness in hypertensive diabetics. 

Nutrient Deficiency

Lacking essential nutrients like B12 and iron can cause sleepiness as a side effect. People with diabetes can feel this drowsiness even more intensely after meals, especially if they are not eating a proper diet. 

Eating a well-balanced meal is essential for everyone, but even more so for people with diabetes. Processed foods cause a sudden spike in energy that ends in a slump or “sugar crash.” The sudden changes in blood sugar levels cause people with diabetes to feel fatigued”, says Dr. Ola Tarabzuni

Poor lifestyle choices can cause people with diabetes to feel exhausted and tired. Keep reading to learn the lifestyle practices that can make diabetes patients feel fatigued. 

  • Consuming high glycemic index (GI) foods can impact blood sugar levels.
  • Drinking alcohol with meals. Alcohol acts as a depressant and can cause sleepiness and fatigue.
  • Inactivity and a lack of physical activity can cause people with diabetes to feel sleepy after eating. This can also contribute to fatigue, further causing tiredness.
  • Insufficient and disrupted sleep can imbalance the hormones that regulate appetite. This disturbs the normal eating schedule and can lead to consuming too much or too little food, both of which result in tiredness and sleepiness post-meals in people with diabetes. 

How to stop feeling tired after eating?

Various treatment options are available for individuals with diabetes who fall asleep after eating, depending on the underlying condition. Your doctor can prescribe medication to treat the underlying cause or suggest improvements in your lifestyle. Let’s explore what is best suited for your condition. 

Prescription Medication

Medication will be prescribed depending on the underlying condition causing post-meal sleepiness in people with diabetes. Here are a few prescription medications for some medical conditions that can cause fatigue after eating. 

  • Hyperglycemia: Drugs like Rybelsus and Basaglar can bring high sugar levels under control. 
  • Blood pressure: ACE inhibitors and ARBs are popularly prescribed to lower blood pressure in people with diabetes. Statins like Pravastatin can also be given to normalize cholesterol levels. 
  • Antidepressants: Low blood sugar antidepressants like fluoxetine and milnacipran help manage symptoms of depression without affecting blood sugar levels too much. 
People with diabetes are 2 times more likely to develop depression. Get Antidepressant treatment now.

Over the counter Medication

Over-the-counter options include medication for relieving general symptoms associated with diabetes. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and naproxen can alleviate inflammation associated with chronic fatigue. 

Lowering fatigue also improves hormonal balance within the body, However, talking to a healthcare professional before starting a new treatment or medication is essential. 

Lifestyle changes

Adopting good lifestyle habits can help keep fatigue and tiredness at bay. This can make a significant difference for people experiencing drowsiness after eating.

  • Good sleep: Get 7-9 hours of sleep every night to give your body time to process and digest the food you consume during the day. A good rest can reduce fatigue, improving energy levels after meals.
  • Regular exercise: Go out for a post-meal walk to aid digestion. Regular exercise or moving your body can help regulate hormone levels and is generally recommended for individuals with diabetes. 
  • Avoid alcohol and coffee: Keep yourself hydrated and avoid stimulants like coffee and depressants such as alcohol. They can cause energy crashes after some time, causing you to feel drowsy or fall asleep. 
  • Balanced Diet: Sleepiness and fatigue after eating are general signs of diabetes but can also indicate a poor diet. Reduce sugar intake, processed foods, and heavy meals and introduce healthy fats and proteins in meals.

When should I see a doctor?

Feeling drowsy after eating is a regular occurrence. If you are experiencing frequent fatigue after meals, the cause can be an underlying health condition such as diabetes. Consult a doctor to get a professional diagnosis and treatment. 

Get a professional diagnosis for your condition within minutes. Book an appointment now.

FAQs

What are the three symptoms of undiagnosed diabetes?

Frequent urination, intense thirst, feeling tired all the time, being hungry even after eating, itchy skin, and blurry vision are all silent symptoms of diabetes. These symptoms don’t necessarily mean you have diabetes but can be early signs of developing it. Consult a healthcare professional if you experience two or more signs together.

What does diabetes fatigue feel like?

People with diabetes can experience a total loss of energy, and performing daily tasks becomes exhausting. Diabetic fatigue manifests physically as tiredness, low energy, decreased physical endurance, sluggishness, and sleepiness. Emotional symptoms include apathy, feeling overwhelmed, reduced concentration and attention, slow thinking, and feeling low. 

What are the side effects of sleeping immediately after eating?

Lying immediately after eating can cause bloating, ingestion, and increased stomach acid. It can lead to heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease, weight gain, and disrupted sleep patterns.

What foods lower sugar immediately?

Foods rich in fiber and low in sodium, sugar, and starch can help lower blood sugar levels. People with hyperglycemia should add non-starchy vegetables, leafy greens, whole grains, nuts, and berries to their diet. These foods are packed with beneficial nutrients and are generally low in sugar.

Your Doctors Online uses high-quality and trustworthy sources to ensure content accuracy and reliability. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions and medical associations to provide up-to-date and evidence-based information to the users.

  • Frier, Brian M. “How hypoglycaemia can affect the life of a person with diabetes.” Diabetes/metabolism research and reviews 24.2 (2008): 87-92.
  • Nilsson, Peter M., et al. “Incidence of diabetes in middle-aged men is related to sleep disturbances.” Diabetes care 27.10 (2004): 2464-2469.
  • Ayas, Najib T., et al. “A prospective study of self-reported sleep duration and incident diabetes in women.” Diabetes care 26.2 (2003): 380-384.

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