Your Thanksgiving Drowsiness


Mia Noel

Have you ever eaten a thanksgiving meal and all of a sudden felt very tired? Well, contrary to common belief, tryptophan is not the culprit for these sleepy feelings. The reason we feel tired after eating a big thanksgiving dinner is just that, you’ve eaten so much food that all the blood in your body is flowing down to your gut focusing on digesting your food that you begin to feel tired. It is believed, by many people, that turkey has a lot of tryptophan in it, which is also a precursor of Melatonin. “Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is required by the body because it cannot synthesize from other amino acids,” said Kristi King with Baylor and Texas Children’s Hospital. “It is found in poultry, milk, chocolate, oats, cheese, and even some seeds.” The amount of tryptophan in turkey is about the same amount found in almost any other poultry.

“So people think that, around Thanksgiving time, when you have a lot of turkey, that makes you tired because of all the tryptophan that you’re eating gets produced into melatonin and then it makes us fall asleep. That’s actually not true, the reason why we tend to be tired after we have a large meal of Thanksgiving is simply because of the amount of food that we’re having we have what’s called postprandial fatigue, which is basically after you’ve had a big meal your body goes into basically shutdown mode and sleep gets promoted,” said Dr Daniel Barone. “That’s why a lot of other countries have siestas [an afternoon nap] for this reason. After lunch, the body goes into postprandial fatigue [a food coma] and then having a little nap can be can be very nice,” said Dr Daniel Barone. Falling asleep or being relaxed after people have had a meal can help some people digest the food and use those nutrients to heal the body and repair the damage that’s occurred.

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While most people assume that the tryptophan in turkey is the culprit, a registered dietitian at Baylor college of Medicine says that it’s a combination of factors. “One reason people may get sleepy after their thanksgiving meal is that the turkey is usually consumed with other foods that contain tryptophan, typically carbohydrates. It could be a cumulative effect causing drowsiness,” King said. Over eating is another factor of drowsiness. “When we eat a large meal, blood rushes to the gut to help transport the newly digested macro and micronutrients. With the blood focussing on the gut, it can cause less blood availability for the rest of the body, including the brain, which can cause light-headedness or invoke that tired feeling,” King also said. People usually eat over 4,000 calories at a thanksgiving meal, which is almost double a person’s daily requirement. If you’re trying to avoid the sleepy feeling after your thanksgiving meal then drink plenty of water, because dehydration is a factor of drowsiness, and participate in physical activities, because getting up and moving around after eating can help you feel more awake.