The mother of all meals is coming up next week. Yeah, that one. Thanksgiving dinner.
You are probably aware of the “myth” surrounding the nap that usually occirs immediately after grubbing to your heart’s content. The turkey is usually to blame, but is it really the bird’s fault?
Ask the average man on the street why you get sleepy after a turkey meal and the answer a good portion of the time is going to be “tryptophan.” But it turns out that is just a culinary myth, though there is good reason behind it.
Tryptophan is an amino acid used by the body to make serotonin, which does help the brain regulate sleep. While it is present in turkey, tryptophan is in all meat at different levels. Certain types of cheese actually contain higher levels than turkey. So yes, there is some connection between turkey and sleep. The connection was taken advantage of by sleep aid producers in the 1980s who made tryptophan supplements. When taken alone on an empty stomach, the drug was able to help ease the drug-taker into a deep sleep. The FDA banned these pills in 1991 due negative side effects and some deaths. Don’t worry. These pills contained much, much higher levels of tryptophan than are found in turkey or any other food.
The real cause behind sleepiness after a traditional Thanksgiving meal is carbohydrates. Potatoes, stuffing, pie, casseroles, will all release insulin and cause sleepiness. The consumption of alcohol will also aid in inducing the need for a nap. “Eating any big meal, especially if you also drink alcohol, is likely to make you feel sleepy,” Robin Kanarek a psychologist at Tufts University told The LA Times. So as you are settling down for your early evening nap, stuffed with stuffing, turkey and alcohol after hearing stories told by relatives that you have heard at least five times before, don’t blame the turkey.