Foods That Make You Sleepy
Ever wonder why school children’s learning and behavior deteriorates after lunch? It’s because some foods perk up the brain while others put it to sleep. Here are some foods that can improve attention, behavior, and learning in the afternoon rather than having foods that make you sleepy:
Balance proteins and carbohydrates
Whether your child learns well after lunch or dozes through afternoon classes can be influenced by the proteins in the lunch and the carbohydrate company these proteins keep. Protein foods which contain the amino acid tryptophan tend to sedate the brain, and protein foods containing the amino acid tyrosine wake up the brain. Rich dietary sources of tryptophan are eggs, milk, bananas, dairy, sunflower seeds, and meat. Eating a lot of carbohydrates with tryptophan- containing foods increases their sedative effect. The carbohydrates trigger the release of insulin, which sends the amino acids that compete with tryptophan into muscle tissue. This allows more tryptophan to get into the brain. Serotonin production goes up and sluggishness follows. Fewer carbohydrates and calories with more protein, on the other hand, makes the eater more alert after lunch. The amino acid that perks up the brain is tyrosine, found in seafood, turkey, tofu, legumes, and tuna. So, a salad of legumes with tuna, tofu, or turkey would be the ideal lunch to aide with work and learning in the afternoon rather than drift off from foods that make you sleepy.
Even the order in which you eat the food in your lunch can affect afternoon performance. Whether the brain will rev up or slow down depends on whether tyrosine or tryptophan gets into the neurotransmitters first. Eat the protein first, and you allow the amino acid, tyrosine, to wake up the brain. Then when you eat the carbohydrates, the tryptophan ushered into the brain by insulin will have less effect. So, if you want to wake up the brain, eat a high protein lunch and eat the protein before the carbohydrates; if you want the brain to relax, eat a high carbohydrate lunch and eat the carbohydrates before the protein.
Eat a light lunch avoiding foods that make you sleepy
A healthy lunch for school-age children would contain between 600 and 800 calories, with a balance of complex carbohydrates and proteins and a minimum of fats. A high calorie, high carbohydrate meal, such as pasta with a fat-laden sauce, is likely to diminish your child’s academic performance after lunch. A meal high in unhealthy fats diminishes mental alertness by diverting blood from the brain to the stomach to help with digestion. An example of a healthy lunch would be a tuna sandwich on whole wheat bread with lettuce, tomato, and a mayonnaise made with canola oil, a side salad, a piece of fruit, and a glass of milk. Encourage your child to skip dessert after lunch and to save his daily dessert treat for after dinner.
Lobby for healthy school lunches
In many schools, the hot lunch programs are a nutritional failure. Based on the lunches that are served, many schools deserve the behavior they get from children after lunch. Fast-food favorites are now taking over the counter space in school cafeterias, teaching children that the four food groups are: burgers, fries, pizza, and chicken nuggets. Get involved in your PTA and make the topic of healthy school lunches a high priority. Also, monitor what is sold in the vending machines and lobby for juices rather than heavily sugared, high caffeine sodas.
Dr. Sears, or Dr. Bill as his “little patients” call him, has been advising busy parents on how to raise healthier families for over 40 years. He received his medical training at Harvard Medical School’s Children’s Hospital in Boston and The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, the world’s largest children’s hospital, where he was associate ward chief of the newborn intensive care unit before serving as the chief of pediatrics at Toronto Western Hospital, a teaching hospital of the University of Toronto. He has served as a professor of pediatrics at the University of Toronto, University of South Carolina, University of Southern California School of Medicine, and University of California: Irvine. As a father of 8 children, he coached Little League sports for 20 years, and together with his wife Martha has written more than 40 best-selling books and countless articles on nutrition, parenting, and healthy aging. He serves as a health consultant for magazines, TV, radio and other media, and his AskDrSears.com website is one of the most popular health and parenting sites. Dr. Sears has appeared on over 100 television programs, including 20/20, Good Morning America, Oprah, Today, The View, and Dr. Phil, and was featured on the cover of TIME Magazine in May 2012. He is noted for his science-made-simple-and-fun approach to family health.