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Getting the Right Diabetes Treatment

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Is Falling Asleep After Eating a Sign of Diabetes?

Medically Reviewed By Kelly Wood, MD

Feeling sleepy after eating can be an effect of digestion, especially when mild. However, sometimes falling asleep after eating is a sign of diabetes. The expected process of digestion and the types of foods you eat can cause sleepiness after eating. However, sometimes diabetes can cause effects that lead to drowsiness or fatigue.

This article discusses how falling asleep after eating may be a sign of diabetes. It describes other possible causes and when to contact a doctor. This article also explains possible management and treatment methods.

Is falling asleep after eating a sign of diabetes? 

A man sits at a dining table and rests his head on his arms with his eyes closed.
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Falling asleep after eating is sometimes, but not always, a symptom of diabetes. In fact, tiredness is a common Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source symptom of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

The tiredness occurs from fluctuations in blood sugar levels that diabetes can cause Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source . These fluctuations are known as hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia. Hypoglycemia refers to blood sugar levels that are too low. Hyperglycemia refers to blood sugar levels that are too high. Both conditions can lead to tiredness.

Blood sugar spikes and hyperglycemia can occur when the body does not produce enough insulin. Insulin is the hormone that controls blood sugar levels.

Hyperglycemia also can occur if insulin does not work effectively. Hyperglycemia may be particularly common after consuming carbohydrates, which contain sugar.

Hypoglycemia can occur in people with diabetes after missing a meal or exercising too intensely.

Blood sugar fluctuations can happen in people both with and without Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source diabetes.

With diabetes, you may experience uncontrollable sleepiness after eating alongside other symptoms. These include:

  • increased thirst or hunger, or both
  • increased urination
  • blurry vision
  • tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
  • sores that are slow to heal
  • unintended weight loss

Is falling asleep after eating sugar a sign of diabetes?

Falling asleep after eating sugar can be a symptom of diabetes.

Sugars are types of carbohydrates, so they can lead to rises in blood sugar, which may cause sleepiness. Also, carbohydrates can cause a “sugar crash,” or drop in blood sugar levels and energy, after the rise. This drop is known as reactive hypoglycemia.

A 2019 meta-analysis suggests that consuming carbohydrates was linked to higher levels of fatigue and decreased levels of alertness.

Falling asleep after eating does not always mean you have diabetes

Falling asleep after eating can occur whether or not you have diabetes.

The blood sugar fluctuations that lead to falling asleep after eating can happen Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source to everyone. Falling asleep after eating also may result from:

  • eating a meal high in carbohydrates
  • the natural process of digestion requiring Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source energy
  • not getting good quality sleep Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source
  • medical conditions apart from diabetes, such as sleep apnea

Other possible causes

Other factors and medical conditions may cause sleepiness after eating.

Food intolerances

Feeling tired can be a symptom of food intolerance or sensitivity.

For example, gluten intolerance, such as from celiac disease, may cause fatigue after eating gluten.

Other symptoms of food intolerance include:

  • diarrhea or constipation
  • bloating and gas
  • abdominal pain
  • nausea
  • joint pain
  • rashes

Learn more about food intolerances.

Thyroid conditions

The thyroid is a gland that produces two hormones that help control many processes in the body. Conditions that affect thyroid health commonly lead Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source to fatigue.

Some thyroid conditions, such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, can occur alongside food intolerances. This may further cause fatigue after eating.

The symptoms of thyroid disease vary depending on the exact condition. However, you may experience:

  • weight changes
  • joint and muscle pain
  • hair loss
  • dry skin
  • changes to your menstrual periods
  • infertility
  • slowed or irregular heart rate
  • depression

Sleep disorders

Impaired sleep quality can lead Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source to extreme daytime fatigue. This can result in sleepiness after eating or generally throughout the day.

Other symptoms of sleep disorders include:

  • taking more than 30 minutes to fall asleep
  • regularly waking during the night
  • unusual sensations in the legs or arms, such as tingling or crawling feelings
  • pauses in breathing during sleep
  • jerking arms or legs during sleep
  • making unusual noises during sleep, such as:
    • snoring
    • snorting
    • gasping
    • choking sounds

See more reasons for feeling sleepy after eating, including clinical conditions and non-clinical causes.

When to see a doctor

Contact a doctor promptly if you notice additional symptoms of illness alongside falling asleep after eating. Also contact a doctor if symptoms are severe, persistent, or interfering with your daily life.

It is also advisable to contact a doctor if you do not know why you are feeling tired. Self-managing the cause of tiredness could lead to not receiving effective treatment. If you suspect you have a certain condition, contact your doctor before self-treating. This will avoid delaying medical care or trying inappropriate treatments.

Treatment and management

Treatment can depend on the underlying cause and condition related to symptoms of fatigue.

If diabetes is causing sleepiness after eating, treatment may include:

  • medication with insulin
  • other medications that help control glucose and insulin levels
  • working with a doctor or dietitian to create an effective diet plan
  • regular exercise

Read more about treatments and diets for type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

The following self-management methods may also help improve energy levels and general health:

  • eating smaller meals more often
  • exercising regularly
  • going for a 15-minute walk after eating
  • maintaining a moderate body weight
  • improving sleep quality
  • managing stress, such as with meditation or counseling
  • limiting caffeine and alcohol consumption
  • drinking water to stay hydrated

Summary

Falling asleep after eating can be a symptom of diabetes. Diabetes may cause fluctuations in blood sugar levels, which can lead to fatigue.

However, getting sleepy after eating is not always related to diabetes. The natural process of digestion, sleep apnea and other sleep impairments, and food intolerances can also cause sleepiness after eating.

Consult your doctor if you experience frequent or severe tiredness or other symptoms of illness.

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Medical Reviewer: Kelly Wood, MD
Last Review Date: 2023 Mar 21
View All Getting the Right Diabetes Treatment Articles
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.