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Cat Naps - Carb Related?

My friend seems to occasionally need to fall asleep at around 3 - 3.30pm - even when we are out and about. For instance, we were driving along the other day when he pulled over - didn’t say anything - turned the car engine off and shut his eyes for a catnap. Around 15 minutes later and he wakes up and is refreshed enough to carry on. I get tired at this time of the day also but I find it harder to fall asleep. I find movement will help me to stay awake. My friend, however, literally cannot stay awake when the need for a nap hits - he has to nap #nap.

Having monitored him, we noted that this happens when he eats a large carb breakfast #carohydrates followed by a large 2nd carb meal. Interesting but Is this NORMAL?

There is an article in the HuffingtonPost.com.au which points out that the reason we feel sleepy after lunch, or after eating in general, is due to the amount of insulin produced after certain meals, which can trigger our 'happy' and 'sleep' hormones.

"After eating -- particularly sugary foods -- insulin is produced by the pancreas which then converts these sugars (glucose), circulating in the bloodstream into glycogen within our cells,"

"Excessive secretion of insulin causes the essential amino acid tryptophan to move into the brain. Once in the brain, it leads to increased production of serotonin and melatonin, which are two neurotransmitters that have a calming effect and help regulate sleep. Interestingly, around 90 percent of the body's serotonin is found in the gut, where it regulates intestinal movements."

Accredited practising dietitian Jemma O'Hanlon agrees, saying the amount of carbohydrates we eat at lunch can affect how sleepy we feel afterward.

"Carbohydrate containing foods such as bread, pasta, rice and potatoes boost the production of a neurotransmitter known as serotonin, which can boost our mood but also make us feel content and possibly sleepy," O'Hanlon told HuffPost Australia.

General overeating, large portions and the consumption of particularly fatty meals can leave you feeling sleepy because the body has to work overtime and utilise more energy to break down the quantity of food."


Another reason could be improved performance:

"Research says a 5-minute nap produced few benefits in comparison with the no-nap control. The 10-minute nap produced immediate improvements in all outcome measures (including sleep latency, subjective sleepiness, fatigue, vigor, and cognitive performance), with some of these benefits maintained for as long as 155 minutes. The 20-minute nap was associated with improvements emerging 35 minutes after napping and lasting up to 125 minutes after napping. The 30-minute nap produced a period of impaired alertness and performance immediately after napping, indicative of sleep inertia, followed by improvements lasting up to 155 minutes after the nap."

- Brooks A., Lack L. (2006) A Brief Afternoon Nap Following Nocturnal Sleep Restriction: Which Nap Duration is Most Recuperative?

So there you have it - afternoon power naps can be good for you and can be due to eating a high carbohydrate and fatty meal.

If you find you need to nap regularly without eating high carbohydrate and fatty meals or you're not benefiting from improved mental performance, then have a word with your doctor as they may want to rule out any mineral or vitamin deficiency or other serious conditions that may cause this need to nap.