TRENTON, N.J. — Feel sleepy after a big Thanksgiving meal? Contrary to popular thinking, it’s not the turkey’s fault.
While there is an amino acid in turkey that induces sleepiness, experts say it’s much more likely the reason you’re tired after having Thanksgiving dinner is a combination of simple factors: you ate and drank too much and didn’t sleep enough.
So don’t blame the turkey.
“The poor turkeys have enough problems on Thanksgiving,” said Dr. Carol Ash of Somerset Medical Center’s Sleep for Life Center in Hillsborough, N.J.
The reason turkey gets blamed for making people sleepy is because it contains tryptophan, an amino acid that produces the brain chemical serotonin, which promotes calm and sleepiness. But as part of a big dinner, the tryptophan has a hard time reaching the brain.
Even if it did, “you’d have to ingest quite a number of turkeys” for it to have an effect, she said.
If the tiredness has anything to do with dinner, Ash said, it would be because of carbohydrates, which studies show are more likely to make people sleepy. And even that would only be a small factor, she said.
There’s the travel, working longer days to get things done and lack of sleep, along with the carbs and alcohol, she said.
Overeating also contributes to feeling tired at Thanksgiving, said Joan Salge Blake, a registered dietitian and nutrition professor at Boston University.
“You’re just eating a whole heck of a lot of foods and are stuffed,” said Salge Blake.
On top of that, she added, you’re “often just sitting around afterward, watching football.”