Does Turkey Make You Sleepy?

Turkey is often blamed for the sleepy feeling that occurs after a Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey dinner. This is traditionally blamed on the high levels of tryptophan which are found in turkey. But new studies reveal that turkey may not be the reason after all.

What is Tryptophan?

Tryptophan is an amino acid which helps to increase serotonin and melatonin levels in your body. These are neurotransmitters that make you feel good and help you to relax. They also help to induce sleep, which is why it is believed that it is the turkey that makes you sleepy.

However, in order for the tryptophan to be able to make it to your brain in large quantities, it needs to be taken on an empty stomach with no other proteins or amino acids. Turkey has a lot of other proteins and amino acids which prevent the tryptophan from reaching your brain in large quantities. Therefore turkey can help to make you feel calmer, and perhaps more relaxed, as your brain is able to obtain some tryptophan, but not enough to make you feel sleepy or lethargic.

It is interesting to note that tryptophan is found in most other meats such as chicken, pork and beef as well as in other foods such as cheese, milk, eggs, nuts and asparagus. But for some reason, these foods don’t make you sleepy the way that a turkey dinner seems to do.

Why do You Feel Sleepy?

The truth is that it is not the turkey, but rather it is a number of other factors that cause you to become sleepy after consuming a large turkey dinner. One reason that you become sleepy after the meal is simply because you are tired and you need rest. Preparing for the dinner alone can be a lot of work that can leave you worn out. On top of that, dealing with family can also be physically tiring.

Another major reason why you may feel tired is that you eat too much. When your body has to deal with so many calories all at once, all of its energy is focused on processing the foods, thus leaving you with no energy for anything else.

If you have wine or another type of alcohol with your meal, then that may also be the reason why you feel sleepy after the meal. Alcohol is a sedative.

How to Prevent Sleepiness

There are a few simple things that you can do to prevent yourself from becoming sleepy after a big turkey meal. If you are the one who is hosting the dinner, have others help you by bringing certain dishes, as this will help to take the pressure off of you. If you have a lot of foods to choose from, then simply take a small portion of each food. This will still allow you to try them all, but you won’t be as full when the meal is done. And if you like your wine, limit your intake, or try an alcohol-free beverage to avoid feeling sleepy.


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