MUNDANE MYSTERIES: Does Turkey Really Make You Sleepy?

Hopefully you had a big, delicious Thanksgiving this year! But did you have a hard time staying awake after lunch? Most people did, and almost everyone blames tryptophan. But is tryptophan really the main culprit? What even is tryptophan, anyway?

Tryptophan is an amino acid that our bodies use to help make both vitamin B3 & serotonin, which is a sleep-regulating neurotransmitter. Our bodies can’t produce serotonin on their own, so we have to get it through what we eat, things like turkey (of course), as well as other meats, chocolate, bananas, mangoes, dairy products, eggs, chickpeas, peanuts, and a bunch of other stuff. Some things have more tryptophan in them than turkey, like cheddar cheese, for instance.

The truth, though, is that tryptophan doesn’t have much of an impact unless you get it A) on an empty stomach & B) in an amount larger than what you’d get from a drumstick.

So why does turkey get blamed for basically being the poultry version of Ambien? Well, that overwhelming urge to sleep should actually be blamed more on the overall Thanksgiving meal, with all its different foods & beverages. Some of the things that factor into the need to nap on Turkey Day are:

  • Fats (like turkey skin), which require a lot of energy for our bodies to digest, which in turn redirects our blood to our digestive systems. That reduces blood flow in the rest of the body, which means less overall energy.
  • Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. Which is why a wise man by the name of Homer Simpson referred to it as the cause of, and solution to, all life’s problems.
  • And then there’s the overeating, which basically does the same things as fats. The average Thanksgiving meal, per person, contains 3000 calories & 229 grams of fat. And it takes a lot of energy to digest that sort of massive meal. So, there again, your blood gets routed to your digestive system, which leaves your brain a little tired.

Hopefully, though, by now you’ve slept off your food coma & are back in your normal routine, still thankful for all you have in your life. That’s what Thanksgiving is all about, after all. And I sure would be thankful if you let me know about any Mundane Mysteries you’d like solved. Just send me a message via social media (@AndyWebbRadioVoice), or shoot me an email at andy@wfre.com.

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