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Each Thanksgiving 46 million turkeys are prepared, set out on the dining room table and shared by families. We stuff ourselves with turkey, along with cranberry sauce, homemade stuffing, mashed potatoes, and apple pie until we are past the point of being full. And an hour later, we find ourselves stumbling over to the nearest couch and dozing off.

“It was the turkey” They always say. “It’s laden with an acid that makes you sleepy”.

Many people cut their Thanksgiving festivities short since they believe that all the turkey will put them to bed early. But, are these 46 million turkeys each Thanksgiving the reason behind our post-Thanksgiving dinner naps and sleepiness? Or is this just a myth?

The Truth Behind Turkey

Turkey does, indeed contain the amino acid; tryptophan, which is a sleep associated acid. Tryptophan is a component of the brain chemical; serotonin. During the digestion process tryptophan gets converted into the sleep-inducing hormone; melatonin.

So yes, turkey does contain an acid that sends signals to the brain to make you feel sleepy. But, it is not the only food that does so, and is not the sole reason you may feel tired after filling your stomach with a Thanksgiving feast.

The Truth Behind Post-Dinner Sleepiness

Turkey is not the only food set on the table for Thanksgiving dinner with tryptophan in it. Many other foods such as nuts, lentils, fish, poultry and eggs, contain similar amounts of tryptophan to turkey. In fact, cheddar cheese contains more tryptophan than turkey.

So, if you fall into a food coma this Thanksgiving, and find yourself drifting off while relatives are trying to catch up, it is not the turkey to blame.

According to Live Science, the loads of carbohydrates that are to blame. The gourmet stuffing, the buttery mashed potatoes, and the spiced apple pie are what’s truly putting you to sleep. In order to enter the brain, tryptophan must compete with all of the body’s other amino acids. And the consumption of these carbs, triggers the release of insulin. Which removes all amino acid competitors from the blood, and leaves a clear path for tryptophan to enter the brain and do its duty.

So, this Thanksgiving don’t just point fingers at the turkey once the meal is over and you feel tired. Blame mom’s delicious stuffing and garnished yams. Because any meal containing any amount of tryptophan, and a lot of carbs can trigger sleepiness.


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