Does Turkey’s Tryptophan Really Make You Sleepy? – Life Savvy

On a table is a Thanksgiving dinner.
Bochkarev Photography/

You heard the rumor. Eating turkey on Thanksgiving makes you sleepy because of an amino acid in it called tryptophan. But while the myth is widespread, is it true?

As it turns out, tryptophan in turkey probably won’t make you sleepy after your big Thanksgiving meal.

This rumor arose because it is partly based on truth. Tryptophan is used to make serotonin in the body, and serotonin is the hormone that helps with calmness. Since tryptophan is used to make serotonin, melatonin is actually produced. We all know that melatonin helps you sleep. So it makes sense that foods with tryptophan can make you sleepy.

The reason this isn’t true is that you’re just not getting enough tryptophan in the turkey to really make a difference to your sleep. For example, tryptophan supplements are usually around five grams and have been shown to improve sleep. Your serving of turkey has about 410 milligrams, so you’d have to eat a lot of turkey to feel the effects.

So why do you feel sleepy after eating turkey? Although it may be a light What’s probably happening is you’re eating a load of carbs right next to it. Think of the pies, potatoes, sandwiches and stuffing you eat during Thanksgiving. It takes center stage on your plate.

When you overeat or consume a large number of carbohydrates, your blood sugar rises and then falls, resulting in a crash that makes you feel sleepy and less alert. Couple that with possible alcohol consumption, and that poor bird gets a bad rap for no reason.

If you’re planning to eat turkey this Thanksgiving but don’t want to get sleepy, try eating smaller portions and making sure you’re getting plenty of good quality sleep each night. But don’t blame the turkey if you need a few extra Zzzs.

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