Does Thanksgiving turkey make you sleepy? Experts weigh in

If you sleep, you lose – but don’t blame the turkey.

Post-meal naps have become as ritualistic on Thanksgiving as the holiday itself. Often, the main course of the November meal is seen as the sole culprit for late-afternoon grogginess.

The uninformed turkey-and-snooze consumer might tell you that the bird contains exorbitant amounts of the amino acid tryptophan, which, like garden variety stories from sources other than The Post, can make you sleepy.

Does turkey make you tired?

But that much tryptophan – which helps produce the sleep hormone melatonin – isn’t really only consumed in Turkey, explains William & Mary biochemist Doug Youngwho debunked “the great myth” about eating birds.

“When it comes to tryptophan content, Turkey is somewhere in the middle. There are vegetables that contain more tryptophan than turkey,” he said.

Only bird brains believe turkey makes you sleepy on Thanksgiving.  According to experts, these are the real culprits.
Only bird brains believe turkey makes you sleepy on Thanksgiving. According to experts, these are the real culprits.

“Soybeans contain about twice as much as turkey. Parmesan cheese. Even pork has more tryptophan than turkey.”

What is in Turkey that makes you sleepy?

Instead, Young says that why people freak out like a Plymouth Rock is a question of the amount and carbohydrates consumed.

“So when you eat a big starchy meal with potatoes and lots of other good foods at Thanksgiving, your blood sugar levels often spike,” he said.

The internal imbalance causes the body to correct course. “Your body reacts… but then it overreacts. Consequently, you descend from this glucose surge, and then you feel the fatigue and fall into the “food coma.”

Carbohydrates and sugary treats – traditional holiday favorites – also help tryptophan reach the brain.

Foods with tons of tryptophan, according to the Texas Medical Center milligram
Whole milk (per liter) 732
2% milk (per quart) 551
Canned tuna (per ounce) 472
Turkey, skinless, boneless, white meat (per pound, raw) 410
Chicken, skinless, boneless, white meat (per pound, raw) 238
Rolled oats for oatmeal (per cup) 147
There are many common foods that have tryptophan content higher than turkey.

Normally, the brain absorbs other amino acids instead of the sleep drug, but in this case it is often overwhelmed, said Mady Hornig, associate professor of epidemiology at the Columbia School of Public Health.

“Raiding the fridge for that extra piece of cake gives you an insulin boost.” she said. “This suppresses blood levels of all other major neutral amino acids except tryptophan.”

Perhaps the misnomer for turkey has more to do with the copious amounts eaten than with that ordinary wild residents of Staten Island chemical composition.

“During Thanksgiving, people eat 300 to 400 grams of protein without hesitation,” says Nicolaas Deutz, nutrition expert and Director of the Texas A&M Center for Translational Research in Aging and Longevitysaid.

“That’s a huge amount of tryptophan and much more than what people normally consume, so the body has to deal with it,” Deutz added, again referencing the role that carbohydrates play in this.

Experts say Turkey is being unfairly blamed for making people sleepy.
Experts say Turkey is being unfairly blamed for making people sleepy.

How do you combat fatigue after Thanksgiving dinner?

Since eating less is probably out of the question, here are some alternative measures that might keep you conscious through a long day.

Eating fresh and healthy foods on your plate like eggs, oatmeal, watermelon, almonds, kale, spinach and bananas can help keep energy levels high. per Medical News Today. A Research report 2017 showed that they are “a cost-effective energy source” when studied in endurance athletes – and the same could be true for endurance athletes too.

At the same time, dinner guests should limit themselves to carbohydrate-containing dishes, sugary desserts and alcoholic drinks, all of which contain energy-sapping ingredients that significantly complicate efforts to achieve the goal of the holiday.

Tessa Wellmon, a registered dietitian at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, also passed on A few pro tips to help Thanksgiving celebrations stay awake late into the evening – First, emphasize the importance of eating slowly so your body has time to realize it’s too full to eat more is.

Wellmon also recommends taking a walk after eating, which can “help digestion” and boost energy levels.

Luckily for this year’s holiday, turkeys are seeing a significant drop in price compared to previous years. You shouldn’t sleep on it.

Caroline Bleakley

Caroline Bleakley is a USTimeToday U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Caroline Bleakley joined USTimeToday in 2022 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with Caroline Bleakley by emailing

Related Articles

Back to top button