Is it normal to have daily energy crashes?
March 2, 2021 9:08 PM   Subscribe

YANMD but I'm surveying for personal experiences to help me decide if this problem is worth venturing to a walk-in clinic during a pandemic. Every day, after I eat lunch and dinner, I experience a debilitating crash in energy. It's often so extreme that I could not stay awake to save my life. I never had this issue pre-pandemic. Is this within the realm of normal (getting older? covid blues? winter?) or should I be concerned?

I think it started happening a few months ago. After I eat, I pass the hell out on the couch. Thankfully I work from home, so usually after lunch I can lie down for a bit, maybe have a short cat nap. Today it was so extreme that as soon as I felt it coming on, I checked my calendar to make sure I didn't have any more meetings in the afternoon and then zonked out for almost three hours on the couch. It's the kind of tired where you don't even move an arm or a leg for the entire sleep, the definition of sleeping like the dead. After dinner I don't mind so much, but I'd still like to stay up so I can spend time with my partner. Sometimes even a small snack is enough to bring on a crash.

It doesn't seem to matter what I eat. I've been avoiding greasy food and it's still happening. I am in my late 30's so maybe it's age? I'm at a healthy weight. I try to stay active, although that's taken a nosedive since the region where I live has implemented harder restrictions. I can no longer play league sports, which were a big part of my fitness, but I've been trying to do at least one strenuous outdoor physical activity a week. I usually get around 6 hours of sleep a night which is normal for me. Other than that, nothing else has changed in my routine. I donated blood recently and my iron levels were normal.

Is this normal or should I go get checked out?
posted by keep it under cover to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: That doesn’t sound normal and is worth getting checked out. Trying to get another hour of sleep at night is a good idea. If you did a walk around the block after lunch, what would happen? If it doesn’t feel safe or possible then that’s definitely a sign that something is off. A full physical with a blood panel to look for deficiencies is a good thing to do at your age, especially if you haven’t recently. If you think you aren’t sleeping soundly (apnea?) that could also be an issue. A home sleep study is a potentially good idea.
posted by amanda at 9:15 PM on March 2, 2021 [7 favorites]

Also, I fully support an afternoon nap. Studies show that even just closing your eyes and resting for 15-20 minutes in the afternoon can boost your productivity and your quality of life. But long naps which put you into REM are less likely to feel restorative and may disrupt your nighttime sleep.
posted by amanda at 9:27 PM on March 2, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Anecdata point: I had something similar and chalked it up to getting older. Turns out I have type II diabetes and this happens after I eat simple carbs that spike my blood sugar. It’s worth getting checked out—I didn’t have any of the other classic symptoms.
posted by music for skeletons at 9:29 PM on March 2, 2021 [35 favorites]

It's quite possible six hours is no longer enough for you. Is that fair? No. Try going to bed earlier, though.
posted by michaelh at 9:46 PM on March 2, 2021 [7 favorites]

Something similar happens to me if I eat too much sugar / sweet drinks / refined carbs, without protein and fat to balance it out, and especially if I do so after skipping a meal or eating really minimally all day.

I interpret it as a blood sugar problem - like I raised my blood sugar too fast, and then my body overcompensated with a flood of insulin, and then I had NO blood sugar left and could barely move.

It's less likely to happen if I eat regularly all day, and more likely after some fasting.
And less likely after a balanced meal, but more likely after a meal that's mostly simple carbs, especially if I include a sugary drink like iced tea.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 10:10 PM on March 2, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Because it's timed after meals, I agree with music for skeletons. I'm also have Type II diabetes and certain carbs can make your blood sugar spike and then crash. (Though you can experience hypoglycemia without having diabetes.) An A1C (finger-prick) test will make it clear if you've been having blood glucose issues.

Be assured, one can have diabetes and bit fit, in good shape, and be eating a healthy diet. But it can also be that your body needs more sleep, that you are not getting enough recuperative sleep, and/or a combination of factors. It could also be low blood pressure, which can feel very much the same.

I don't know that this is urgent, but I encourage you to see your doctor soon for a full workup; once you know what it is, you can make smart decisions.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 10:13 PM on March 2, 2021 [7 favorites]

The formal medical term is post-prandial somnolence, but it's better known as food coma. And medical world is still not quite sure what causes it. They have three leading theories:

1) Food with tryptophan, such as turkey and some dairy products. When eaten with carbs, they make the brain secrete serotonin, which makes you sleepy.

2) Changes in flow of blood from the brain to the digestive organs.

3) Consuming high-calorie or high-fat food triggers a combination of satiation signals.

However, if you are getting this even after a snack, I'd suspect you have a sleep deficit to start with. Have you tried just going to sleep an hour earlier every day? And what if you eat different types of snacks? What snacks do you usually eat? Have you tried a different food group? Say, instead of a fruit (sugar), try jerky (protein) or protein bar? If it's carbs and sugar causing the slowdown, you may indeed be showing symptoms of diabetes.
posted by kschang at 10:14 PM on March 2, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Reactive hypoglycemia? I agree it sounds severe enough to get checked out. Do you have a regular GP you can message or do a telehealth appointment with to order labs rather than going to a walk-in clinic?
posted by bananacabana at 11:08 PM on March 2, 2021

Best answer: Have a blood panel to check the Big Five: B12, Vit D, Folate, Thyroid, Mono/Epstein Barr.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:34 AM on March 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

I do as well. What are you eating? It's not just about avoiding greasy foods, it happens if you eat anything with a high glycemic index. Yesterday I ate a healthy tomato sauce with chickpea pasta (normal pasta makes me crash) but cooked tomato also makes me crash. Grapes and apples have the same affect on me. Anything that might cause a sugar spike should be removed.

There might also be a food intolerance there that you haven't previously acknowledged like lactose (powdered milk is used in a lot of products).

I found this book to be very useful.
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 12:41 AM on March 3, 2021

This was my main sign of insulin resistance (which can turn into Type II diabetes if left untreated). Ask for an insulin/sugar curve too.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 1:54 AM on March 3, 2021

Do you snore? Crashing hard after eating was one of the major symptoms of my untreated sleep apnea. (Now, while I enjoy taking a nap after lunch In These Times, it's not crucial or unavoidable.)

I try to stay active, although that's taken a nosedive since the region where I live has implemented harder restrictions. I can no longer play league sports, which were a big part of my fitness, but I've been trying to do at least one strenuous outdoor physical activity a week.

Also this - it's a little unclear, but is your "staying active" now limited to one big thing a week? If so, that seems a pretty big change from your metabolic habits pre-pandemic. Maybe try adding or substituting some short less strenuous activities daily that you can do inside the home or with minimal risk (masked walk around the neighborhood.)

Just some ideas, although I'll Nth other suggestions that it's worth getting checked for diabetes/insulin resistance, which I suspect can be done largely remotely at the moment with minimal doctor visits & no need to rush to a walk-in clinic.
posted by soundguy99 at 4:39 AM on March 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

I just want to echo that six hours of sleep a night sounds like chronic sleep deprivation.
posted by bluedaisy at 4:46 AM on March 3, 2021 [9 favorites]

Yeah get a blood test. If you have the option, go to your primary care doctor though, b/c its probably a longer term thing (like blood sugar) that you'd need to have consistent care for. Doesn't sound like the sort of thing you'd address at an urgent care.
posted by RajahKing at 5:19 AM on March 3, 2021

This happens to me sometimes. I can imagine it happening after every meal if I ate differently--over the years I've steered towards eating foods less likely to induce it. It doesn't seem to be closely related to sleep deficit--if I were to get only 3 hours of sleep one night and be super-exhausted, I would still not crash the way I have after eating a huge bowl of popcorn, and in fact I find it very hard to nap by *choice* even when I'm very tired.

In my case I am pretty sure it's blood sugar related, but my relevant bloodwork (including A1C & fasting blood glucose level) has never been particularly out of normal ranges. I say that--and share what has helped me--not to say "don't ask a doctor" (especially if it's something that has started happening suddenly and so often) but because a doctor might shrug or not have much to suggest.

For me these crashes can happen even with whole grains and legumes; brown rice or beans can do it if I eat more than a small portion. Fiber in whole grains and legumes slows things down, but ultimately there's still a lot of carbohydrate in them, and if you're mostly vegetarian it's very easy to have a huge bowl of beans and rice or something. (Distinguishing between glycemic index and glycemic load touches on this, but most of what is written doesn't seem that user-friendly.) Leaning more heavily on fat and protein, plus non-starchy vegetables for bulk, seems to help me. Drinking more water helps a bit too, and I think getting regular exercise (even a walk) helps a bit--being active is said to help with blood sugar management in general.

I bought a glucose meter a few months ago to play around with testing my blood sugar occasionally though I haven't yet gotten it together to be very scientific about testing at specific times to have better data. (I'd never realized you could just walk into the store and buy a decent one for $20--it's the test strips & lancets that get expensive for people testing very often if they're paying out of pocket.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 5:23 AM on March 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

Agree with going to get checked out with bloodwork etc since this could be caused by a lot of different things that may need treatment. To add one more to the pile, this may not apply to you but is it possible you could be pregnant?
posted by randomnity at 6:38 AM on March 3, 2021

There are ways to get HEAVILY discounted blood sugar testing strips, and if you are willing to try a not-name-brand strip and meter, you can save even more.

DBDaily website has a list of the various subscription services. Finally, Dollar Diabetes Supply has an even cheaper option, as they market themselves through subscription box services like CrateJoy, instead of medical equipment. You get "generic" meters and strips, but as low as $7 a month for enough strips for one test per day is nothing to laugh at.
posted by kschang at 7:13 AM on March 3, 2021

Just to add to the pile on, no this isn't normal, yes you should get it checked out.
posted by mhoye at 7:28 AM on March 3, 2021

I don't want to derail further but there's a whole wacky world of grey-market/second-hand test strips. I know there are a lot of factors that go into someone choosing to sell test strips or to buy them that way, but for myself since I have relatively minimal needs (i.e. I'm only trying to get the hang of the best way to eat/get a sense of what's going on with my blood sugar every so often) I decided to go with a brand that performed well in third-party testing/analysis and with sources of strips that I know store them appropriately.
posted by needs more cowbell at 7:31 AM on March 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

For me in my mid 30s it was my thyroid. Nthing the advice to get that checked out.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 7:45 AM on March 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

nthing that this is not normal and it's definitely not an age thing. If it were, I'd probably be asleep all the time in my late 40s. Go to your primary care doctor and get bloodwork to check thyroid, A1C or hbA1c (it's referred to differently in different countries), vitamin d & b12, and folate levels. You should really have a full blood panel like you would with an annual physical, but ask them to make sure all of those are on the list as some places don't include all of them in routine bloodwork.
posted by bedhead at 9:20 AM on March 3, 2021

Nthing thyroid. Also want to add that thyroid issues are way more common than many people realize, and in many cases aren't that bad to live with. I take a single, cheap, common prescription daily and it's gotten my energy levels pretty much back to where they were. (Although I often need 9 hours of sleep a night now where 8 used to be fine.)
posted by commander_fancypants at 1:03 PM on March 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

I assume you would have mentioned this, but there's no possibility you're pregnant, right? Because that's the only time I've ever felt like that. If not, I would try sleeping more (which could actually, legitimately, solve your problem), if that doesn't work I would ask my medical professional at my next appointment.
posted by zibra at 5:01 PM on March 4, 2021

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for your advice. I got a telephone appointment today with a GP and she sent me to have my blood tested.
posted by keep it under cover at 11:18 PM on March 4, 2021 [2 favorites]

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