Why does pasta make us tired?

What we eat matters when it comes to getting a good night's kip. Here's your guide to getting more sleep-friendly tryptophan in your diet.

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without the food coma that sets in at about 3pm - shortly after dinner. But ever wondered why we get so tired after eating certain foods? Well, it can be to do with the amount of tryptophan we consume.

Tryptophan is an amino acid that causes sleepiness. Carbs make it more available to the brain - which is why that peaky food coma can set in after a particularly carbohydrate-heavy meal. But it’s not just a big old pasta bake that gets the old tryptophan production going. Proteins are the building blocks of the amino acid.

The amino acid helps to make serotonin and melatonin - two really important hormones. Melatonin is the sleep hormone made by the brain, while serotonin helps us to maintain a stable mood. Anyone who has suffered from stress or anxiety knows just how devastating it can be to drifting off into a sound sleep; maintaining a balanced mood is key to an undisturbed night.

There are loads of foods that are high in tryptophan, including chicken, eggs, cheese, peanuts, milk and turkey. Having a dinner packed with lean proteins like turkey and chicken may well help the body to relax. But be sure to partner protein with carbs for the most effective sleep-hit.

Try the following combos for a pre-bed snack or supper:

  • Low sugar cereal and milk
  • Peanut butter on toast
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Homemade trail mix (oats, seeds, dark chocolate chips)
  • Hummus and carrots
  • Boiled egg with soldiers
  • Turkey sandwich

Information contained in this Articles page has been written by talkhealth based on available medical evidence. The content however should never be considered a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek medical advice before changing your treatment routine. talkhealth does not endorse any specific products, brands or treatments.

Information written by the talkhealth team

Last revised: 28 August 2020
Next review: 27 September 2023