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Does Eating Turkey Actually Make You Sleepy?

Thanksgivingbody odddinnerturkeytryptophanNewsletterHealth & Wellness • 2 min read • Nov 18, 2014 12:00:00 AM • Written by: Kat Smith


Every year after Thanksgiving dinner when everyone is fighting for couch space to nap off a huge meal, there is always that one guest talking about the tiring effects of eating turkey. Yet, turkey probably only takes up about a quarter of the real estate on your plate, which is much more likely piled high with stuffing, mashed potatoes, and puddles of gravy. When you consider how many calories you eat on Thanksgiving in such a short period—probably between one and two thousand—it is not surprising that you might feel sleepy after the meal, and that’s not because of the tryptophan in the turkey.

The truth of tryptophan

Tryptophan is an amino acid that has a reputation for making people tired. In truth, it actually helps to create serotonin, which promotes feelings of well-being and allows the body to regulate sleep cycles. When you eat tryptophan containing foods (turkey included) on a completely empty stomach, you may feel sleepy, but we all know that nothing is being consumed on an empty stomach at the Thanksgiving dinner table. This means that any effect tryptophan may have on your state of sleepiness is completely negated by the sheer quantity of food you consume.

Tiring Thanksgiving habits

The foods that actually make you the most tired on Thanksgiving are those carbohydrate-rich sides and dessert. If you indulge in a glass of wine or two, you also have the vino to thank for your sleepy feelings. Turkey is actually one of the healthier options on the table, so you might reduce your portion sizes for side dishes and feel free to indulge in the tasty bird that isn’t actually the source of your exhaustion.

Reach the World. Giving Made Easy with Impact.

Kat Smith