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The Truth About Your Post-Thanksgiving Nap

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Last Thursday, we gathered around the table with friends and family to give thanks. But when the bird had been devoured, the potatoes eaten, and everyone’s bellies were about to burst, it was time for another American tradition—the post-feast nap. So, what is it that makes us so sleepy after the Thanksgiving meal?

Turkey Blame Game

We’ve all heard it before. Turkey is full of tryptophan, which makes you sleepy. However, this isn’t totally true. The turkey and tryptophan myth first popped up in a 1975 study at Tufts University when researchers studied the effects of tryptophan in tablet form. When taken as a tablet, insomniacs reportedly fell asleep faster and slept more deeply. Sometime around Thanksgiving of 1978, people started making the connection between the natural tryptophan found in turkey and that post-meal groggy feeling. However, tryptophan can also be found in tons of proteins like pork, eggs, lobster, and soy. In fact, chicken has significantly more tryptophan than turkey, but most of us don’t zonk out after a barbeque.

How Does Tryptophan Work Anyway?

When your body starts digesting your Thanksgiving feast, it breaks down amino acids that try to make their way to your bloodstream. One of those amino acids is tryptophan from the turkey. What starts to happen in your body isn’t too different from Black Friday shopping the next day. Basically, all the amino acids get in line to enter your bloodstream and make their way to your brain. Since the line is so long, very little of the tryptophan makes it, meaning there probably isn’t enough to put you to sleep.

So Why Am I So Tired?

The real culprits are probably the carb-rich foods like rolls and potatoes—not to mention the booze you might have washed it down with. Since you’re eating so much food, your body can actually get exhausted trying to digest it all, making you feel fatigued. Additionally, all the stress that likely built up between making the Thanksgiving meal, dealing with family, and preparing for the upcoming holiday season may contribute. With all of those factors combined, it’s the perfect recipe for a nap.