Why Pancakes Make You Sleepy and How To Avoid It

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Are pancakes making you sleepy? Learn why and how to avoid it with these tips. Plus, discover the best time to eat pancakes and alternatives for energy, like protein pancakes, oatmeal, and smoothie bowls.

The Science Behind the Pancake Food Coma

Pancakes are delicious, but all those carbs can really take a toll on your energy levels. The urge to snooze soon after eating pancakes is common. But what exactly causes that post-pancake sleepiness? Let’s investigate the science behind this carb-filled conundrum.

The drowsy feeling sets in thanks to a few key nutritional elements packed into your standard pancake recipe. Understanding the science can help you still enjoy your pancakes while avoiding that sluggish feeling later on.

It’s All About the Carbs

Pancakes are quintessential carb-loading food. A typical pancake contains about 15-30 grams of carbohydrates, mostly from refined wheat flour. Some recipes add even more carbs with sugar, chocolate chips or fruit jam toppings.

Eating lots of refined carbs like these causes your blood sugar to spike. This triggers your pancreas to produce insulin to lower blood glucose to normal levels. The excess insulin ends up removing too much glucose from the blood, causing a crashed blood sugar level, or hypoglycemia.

This decreases energy production in the body, bringing on fatigue and drowsiness. The more carb-heavy the pancake recipe, the bigger the energy crash later on. Lightheadedness and difficulty concentrating are other common symptoms.

Carb-rich foods also digest more quickly than protein or fat. So your body absorbs all those pancake carbs fast, prompting the energy rollercoaster. Going for a lower carb pancake recipe avoids the blood sugar spikes and crashes.

It’s the Tryptophan

Pancakes contain more than just carbs. The combination of carbs and protein in pancakes impacts neurotransmitters in the brain that affect sleepiness.

The amino acid tryptophan is key here. Tryptophan is needed to produce serotonin, one of the main neurotransmitters that promotes sleep and relaxation.

On its own, tryptophan has a hard time reaching the brain. But when you eat pancakes containing both tryptophan and carbs, the carbs trigger insulin production. This helps remove competing amino acids from the blood, giving tryptophan access to the brain to increase serotonin.

More serotonin production equals greater feelings of sleepiness. Whole wheat or oat flour pancakes provide extra tryptophan compared to white flour versions, so keep that in mind.

The Insulin Factor

As mentioned, the carb- and protein-rich composition of pancakes also stimulates insulin production. This spike in the hormone insulin then triggers certain amino acids that have sleep-promoting effects in the brain.

The combination of spiking insulin and tryptophan infiltrating the brain is a double whammy when it comes to getting sleepy. Insulin also enables tryptophan to access brain cells more readily.

So both the flood of insulin and impacts on neurotransmitters contribute to that irresistible urge to nap soon after eating heaping piles of pancakes.

Other Contributing Factors

Beyond the nutritional makeup of pancakes, a few other factors can determine how likely they are to make you doze off:

Time of Day

Our circadian rhythm dictates being more alert in the morning and sleepier at night. So eating a big carb and protein-loaded breakfast of pancakes is more likely to induce drowsiness thansay, having pancakes for dinner.

Eating pancakes at night may actually help you fall asleep faster thanks to the tryptophan and insulin response. But digging into them first thing in the morning counters the body’s natural alertness rhythms, bringing on sleepiness.

Overall Health

If you have issues like insulin resistance, diabetes, leptin resistance or metabolic syndrome, the cascade of hormones and neurotransmitters triggered by pancakes can hit you harder. Those with health conditions experiencea greater energy crash.

Your level of physical fitness also plays a role. More active individuals can better tolerate the blood sugar spike from eating pancakes.

Additional Toppings

What you top your pancakes with can either perk you up or make you snooze. Opt for lower sugar fruits, nuts and seeds instead of chocolate chips, sugary syrups or jams. Avoid adding more carb sources like granola, cookies or candy pieces.

Lack of Sleep

If you didn’t get enough shuteye the previous night, you’ll be more prone to sleepiness regardless of what you eat in the morning. A pancake breakfast simply exacerbates the fatigue. Make sleep a priority if you want to stay alert after eating pancakes.


Subtle differences in each person’s neurochemistry means some brains react more strongly to tryptophan-increasing meals like pancakes. You might be extra sensitive to the sleep-promoting effects.

Other Food Intolerances

For a small portion of people, food intolerances to ingredients like gluten or dairy can also lead to fatigue and brain fog after consuming pancakes. Pay attention to how your body uniquely reacts.

Tips for Staying Awake

If you want to enjoy your favorite pancake breakfast but avoid the subsequent snooze fest, a few tweaks can help:

  • Opt for a lower carb recipe with almond or coconut flour and cut back on added sugars.
  • Increase the protein content by adding eggs, Greek yogurt or ricotta cheese to the batter.
  • Top with energizing ingredients like fresh fruit, nuts, seeds or nut butter instead of syrup.
  • Drink some coffee with your pancakes but avoid overdoing the caffeine.
  • Take a quick walk outside after eating to stabilize blood sugar.
  • Make sure you’re getting 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night.
  • Stay well hydrated after eating to manage insulin response.
  • Add some cinnamon to the batter since it helps regulate blood glucose.

The right pancake recipe and breakfast habits can let you have the best of both worlds – delicious hotcakes without the unwanted nap afterward!

Other Foods That Make You Sleepy

It’s not just pancakes that can make you feel sleepy; other foods can have the same effect on your body. Here are some other foods that can make you feel like dozing off:


Turkey is commonly known for making you sleepy, especially during Thanksgiving dinner. The reason behind this is the amino acid called tryptophan that is present in turkey. Tryptophan increases the levels of serotonin in the brain, which is responsible for regulating sleep and mood. However, the amount of tryptophan in turkey is not enough to cause significant drowsiness, and it is usually the combination of overeating and alcohol consumption that leads to feeling sleepy after a big turkey dinner.

Dairy Products

Dairy products like cheese and milk contain a high amount of tryptophan, which can make you feel sleepy. Additionally, milk also contains melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep. Eating a large amount of dairy products can increase the levels of tryptophan in your body, which, in turn, can make you feel drowsy. However, it is important to note that not everyone reacts to dairy products in the same way, and some people may not experience any sleepiness after consuming dairy products.


Cherries are a fruit that contains melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep. Eating cherries or drinking cherry juice can increase the levels of melatonin in your body, which can make you feel sleepy. A study conducted on the effects of cherry juice on sleep found that drinking cherry juice before bedtime increased the duration and quality of sleep in adults with insomnia.

Best Time to Eat Pancakes

If you’re a pancake lover, you might be wondering when the best time to indulge in this breakfast treat is. The truth is, it depends on your personal preferences and lifestyle. However, here are some factors to consider when deciding when to eat pancakes.

Morning vs. Nighttime Pancake Consumption

Traditionally, pancakes are considered a breakfast food, and many people prefer to eat them in the morning. Eating pancakes in the morning can provide you with the energy you need to start your day. However, there’s no rule that says you can’t enjoy pancakes at night too. If you’re a night owl or work a night shift, pancakes might be the perfect comfort food to help you wind down after a long day.

Timing Your Pancake Meal for Optimal Energy Levels

If you’re looking to optimize your energy levels, it’s important to consider the timing of your pancake meal. Eating pancakes too early in the morning might cause a sugar crash later in the day. On the other hand, eating pancakes too late at night might interfere with your sleep quality. To avoid energy crashes, it’s best to pair your pancakes with a protein source, like eggs or bacon. This will help slow down the digestion of carbs and prevent a sudden spike in blood sugar levels.

  • When is your favorite time to eat pancakes?
  • Do you prefer sweet or savory pancakes?
  • Have you tried pairing your pancakes with a protein source before?

Pancake Alternatives for Energy

If you’re looking for alternatives to pancakes that will give you a boost of energy to start your day, there are plenty of options to choose from. Here are three pancake alternatives that are packed with nutrients and can help keep you feeling full and energized throughout the day.

Protein Pancakes

Protein pancakes are a great alternative to traditional pancakes because they are higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates. Protein is an essential nutrient that helps build and repair tissues in the body, including muscles. By incorporating protein into your breakfast, you can help keep your energy levels stable throughout the day.

To make protein pancakes, you can use a variety of protein sources such as whey protein powder, Greek yogurt, or cottage cheese. Simply mix the protein source with eggs, oats, and any other ingredients you like, and cook as you would traditional pancakes.


Oatmeal is a classic breakfast option that is packed with fiber, which helps keep you feeling full and satisfied. It’s also rich in complex carbohydrates, which provide a steady source of energy throughout the day. Additionally, oatmeal contains B vitamins that are essential for energy production in the body.

To make oatmeal, simply cook rolled oats with water or milk and add your favorite toppings such as nuts, fruit, or honey. You can also add protein powder to your oatmeal for an additional boost of protein.

Smoothie Bowls

Smoothie bowls are a trendy and delicious way to start your day. They are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which can help boost energy levels and keep you feeling full. Smoothie bowls are also great because they are customizable, so you can add your favorite fruits and vegetables to create a delicious and nutritious breakfast.

To make a smoothie bowl, blend your favorite fruits and vegetables with milk or yogurt and pour the mixture into a bowl. You can then add toppings such as granola, nuts, or fruit to create a satisfying and energizing breakfast.

Overall, there are plenty of alternatives to pancakes that can help boost your energy levels and keep you feeling full throughout the day. Whether you choose protein pancakes, oatmeal, or smoothie bowls, incorporating nutrient-rich foods into your breakfast can help you start your day off right.

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