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Does Turkey Really Make Us Tired?

We all know the feeling: right after a huge Thanksgiving dinner, everyone passes out in chairs around the living room, too tired to move. Maybe a cousin says, “Why are we all so tired?” Perhaps then an aunt says, “It’s the turkey! It makes us tired; there’s some sort of amino acid in it that makes us sleepy!” Is that true? Does turkey really make us tired? We did a little investigating with WebMD, and separated out the facts from the myths.

A roast turkey on a platter with herbal garnishes, with bowls of mashed potatoes, gravy, rolls, and pie on a table.
Whole Homemade Thanksgiving Turkey with All the Sides

FACT: Turkey contains L-Tryptophan.

L-Tryptophan is an essential amino acid. It’s something that we need to survive but the body can’t make it, so we need to eat foods that have enough tryptophan in them. Those foods include turkey, chicken, cheese, eggs, and yogurt.

FACT: L-Tryptophan regulates our sleep cycles.

This amino acid is responsible for producing a lot of serotonin, which is a brain chemical. Serotonin really affects our mood, and usually makes us feel happy and relaxed. It also creates a hormone that regulates our sleep cycles, which helps us to sleep better.

MYTH: Turkey contains enough L-Tryptophan to make us sleepy.

This is where the commonly held belief breaks down: turkey doesn’t actually have enough L-Tryptophan to make us sleepy. Actually, no food high in tryptophan makes us sleepy on its own. After all, when’s the last time you had some cheese and had to go lie down? In fact, there is no single food culprit that makes us super sleepy after Thanksgiving dinner. It simply comes down to overeating. If you have two full plates of filling food in your stomach, your body redirects all the energy you’d use for moving around or talking into digesting. In order for your body to digest all that food, you end up feeling sleepy.

Luckily, holidays are always a good excuse to take a nap. However, if you need to be alert and awake after Thanksgiving dinner, there’s no reason to pass on the turkey. Just take a few less servings of mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie!

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