Does Turkey Really Make You Sleepy?

Thanksgiving: Woman Holding Platter With Roast Turkey And Garnis

Thanksgiving is one of the best times of the year, thanks to the three F’s: family, football, and food! But even as we enjoy the festivities and time with family, we often find ourselves suddenly tempted to squeeze in a nap somewhere after dinner but before pie.  The culprit for the impromptu desire to snooze, according to common thinking, is that turkey makes you tired. But is that true?

Turns out it’s a myth. Well, kind of. Turkey isn’t the sole reason why you find yourself snoozing after a hefty plate of delicious food.  It’s really that within turkey, and several other foods found on your Thanksgiving table, there is an amino acid called tryptophan. Once consumed, tryptophan contends with other amino acids to enter your brain. And while carbohydrates trigger the production of insulin, which acts as a block against amino acids from entering the brain, the block doesn’t really work against – you guessed it – tryptophan.

Once tryptophan enters your brain, the amino acid is metabolized into melatonin, the hormone that helps aid your sleep and wake cycles. Being that melatonin is your body’s natural sleep aid, when its levels are raised, you are more prone to become tired.

Traditional thanksgiving turkey dinner

Protein-rich foods that contain tryptophan that can be found on your Thanksgiving table besides turkey include nuts, soy, cheese, fish, chicken, and eggs.  Plus, anything that has refined sugars – we’re talking about those sweets and that alcohol – can make you feel tired as well.

To prevent the drowsiness between dinner and dessert (and early Black Friday shopping!), try different tricks like alternating between drinking alcoholic beverages and water. This will help make sure that your body isn’t too overwhelmed by the impact of tryptophan and refined sugars all at once, and may minimize how lethargic you feel after your meal.

Because tryptophan has the biggest effect on an empty stomach, be mindful of waiting all day to finally feast and try to dive into some vegetables first. The truth is that the hungrier you are, or the the emptier your stomach is at dinner time, the more likely it is that you could find yourself catching some zzz’s on the couch after Thanksgiving dinner.

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