You've probably heard that there's an ingredient in turkey that can make you sleepy. That ingredient is called L-tryptophan, and it's an essential amino acid that's found in other foods too, like chicken, pork and cheese. L-tryptophan is used in the body to produce niacin, a B vitamin. L-tryptophan can also be metabolized into serotonin and melatonin, both of which can have a calming, sleep-inducing effect. The thing about L-tryptophan, though, is that it needs to be taken on an empty stomach and without any protein or other amino acids in order to produce that tranquilizing effect. Last time we checked, turkey has plenty of protein, and it's rarely eaten by itself -- especially on Thanksgiving Day. So, what's really behind the post-feast stupor? Does turkey really make you sleepy or not?
Here's the verdict: Turkey's been taking a bad rap for other culprits in the rest of your Thanksgiving spread. Here are the real reasons why you're ready for a nap after pigging out at the Thanksgiving table:
Yes, those evil carbs are sabotaging more than your waistline. According to the answer folks at About.com, they're working with the pancreas to produce insulin, which in turn causes some of the other amino acids to leave your bloodstream and enter your muscle cells. That causes an increase in the concentration of L-tryptophan in your bloodstream which then synthesizes into serotonin, and presto -- you're suddenly nodding off.
Don't blame it all on the carbohydrate-rich parts of the meal, though. Fats play a part in the conspiracy by slowing down your digestive system, giving the rest of your meal plenty of time to take effect. Fats also take a lot of energy to digest, and cause your body to redirect blood flow to the digestive system. That means less blood flow to other areas, leaving you feeling less than peppy.
Add in that Thanksgiving wine, which contains alcohol, a nervous-system depressant, and well, you get the picture. More energy-zapping effects.
Who overeats on Thanksgiving Day?! Um, pretty much everybody. Digesting any big meal leads to a loss of energy which is why people in countries where the big meal is at lunchtime need a siesta. They don't prefer a siesta -- they need a siesta.
So the next time someone tells you that you're sleepy from eating all that turkey, tell them they don't know what they're talking about. Then, go take a nap.
By the way, if your bed isn't nap-friendly, perhaps a new mattress is in order. If so, contact us. We're The Mattress Store at Kensington, in Northfield, New Jersey, and we've got the mattress you've been looking for!