Does Turkey Make Us Sleepy?

By Sarah – November 4, 2011

With Thanksgiving a mere week away, I thought I’d explore a myth that’s been around for ages: Does turkey makes us sleepy? Perhaps we’ve been telling ourselves this to justify our Thanksgiving after-dinner naps, because the delectable bird actually doesn’t cause drowsiness at all!

The idea most likely came about because of the tryptophan found in turkeys (tryptophan, when isolated, is a mild sleep-producing agent). However, in order to really have an effect, the tryptophan must make it to the brain. This becomes nearly impossible due to all the other amino acids in the turkey (and other foods being consumed). All of these components of the proteins are fighting to get through to the brain, thus the tryptophan has a hard time having any effect at all. And, as it turns out, the tryptophan levels in turkey aren’t even that high. In fact, roast beef and soy beans contain more tryptophan than turkey, and we don’t seem to be suffering and food comas from those now do we?

While Turkey isn’t likely to induce z’s, it does have several beneficial elements such as serotonin, melatonin, and kynurenines. Serotonin is has been known to boost our mood, and in some countries purified Tryptophan is even perscribed as an anti-depressant.

So why the droopy eyes after the family feast? It may be caused by the stress, alcohol consumption or (most likely) the massive intake of calories. Studies have shown that larger meals seem to have more of a sedative effect than smaller ones, so naturally we tire after gorging on all the breads, potatoes, pies and…turkey.

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