Thanks for the nap!

Thanks for the nap!

You’re getting sleepy verrrry sleeeeeepy

After enjoying a traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner with more side dishes than we usually eat in an entire week, many of us will want nothing more than 40 minutes of down time on the couch.

So – fact or myth? Is it really the turkey’s fault?

Table talk

You’ve probably heard the widely accepted “fact” that a natural chemical in turkey meat called l-tryptophan triggers the drowsiness that so many experience after Thanksgiving dinner. But if you go looking for the details behind this fact, you’ll find evidence that both supports it, and debunks it as a myth. So is the truth somewhere in the middle?

In a word: No.

Turkey does contain l-tryptophan – a sleep-inducing amino acid. But l-tryptophan in turkey meat is not concentrated enough that a couple of slices will make you drowsy. Also, for the l-tryptophan to have any effect, you would have to eat the turkey on an empty stomach.

An empty stomach? On Thanksgiving? I don’t think so.

If you share this information with your loved ones at the dinner table and find that someone won’t be dissuaded from the “turkey = sleepy” myth, you can settle the discussion with this fact: Chicken contains more l-tryptophan than turkey. And yet you never hear anyone say, “Boy, that plate of Buffalo wings made me sleepy.”

Catching Zs

So what is it about Thanksgiving dinner that makes us sleepy? It’s actually very simple: It’s the carbohydrates – especially the simple carbohydrates.

When we eat large portions of simple carbs (such as mashed potatoes, stuffing, and a slice of pumpkin pie piled high with whipped cream), most people respond with a blood sugar spike that increases blood flow to the digestive tract. Add a glass or two of wine or some other alcoholic beverage, and you have the perfect Thanksgiving recipe for drowsiness.

I hope you thoroughly enjoy your Thanksgiving meal as we celebrate all the wonderful (and healthy) things we have to be thankful for. Eat well, drink, and be merry. And enjoy your nap.