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Can’t Sleep on Thanksgiving Night? Don’t Blame the Turkey!

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, millions of Americans are getting ready to gobble till they wobble. While there is nothing better than having a reason to catch up with friends and family, it’s the food that seems to get people really excited.

You can probably picture how it will go now. You’ll start by filling up on your aunt’s infamous deviled eggs and other assorted appetizers before the main course. Then, after a few too many portions of your favorite Thanksgiving staples, you’ll make your way to the couch to unwind. Within minutes, you can’t keep your eyes open, and you may even be considering skipping dessert in favor of succumbing to the dreaded “turkey coma.” But let’s get one thing straight – you can’t blame the turkey for why you’re ready for a post-feast nap.

But Turkey is Loaded With Tryptophan, Right?

It’s a common misconception that turkeys have high levels of tryptophan, an essential amino acid that promotes the onset of the sleep-inducing chemical serotonin. In actuality, many of the high-protein foods you eat on a daily basis, including cheese, chicken and nuts, contain even more tryptophan than the main dish of your Thanksgiving dinner. Additionally, tryptophan alone doesn’t cause you to feel tired. It is the presence of other amino acids, which are responsible for blocking your brain from absorbing tryptophan and halting the production of serotonin.

So, What is Causing Your Turkey Day Tiredness?

turkey tired

It has been found that carbs, which help support your body’s transformation of tryptophan into serotonin, may be the culprit of your sleepiness. It is not just the carbs though, it is also how much you eat of them. And most people can agree that while turkey is delicious, it’s the stuffing, fluffy mashed potatoes and irresistible pies that have you going back for seconds… and most likely thirds. When you load your plate with these types of foods, your body is flooded with sugars. Your body’s main focus then turns from blocking the absorption of tryptophan to producing insulin to break down the influx of sugars. Since there is nothing stopping it, your brain will begin to produce serotonin, and you’ll start to want nothing more than sleep.

In addition, the more food you eat, especially the carb-dense side dishes, the more food your body has to digest. This requires a lot of energy, resulting in your body getting ready for rest. To top it all off, the holiday prep and travel, mixed with managing family members, can all add up to you falling asleep on the couch by 5 pm.

Though it’s just one day, Thanksgiving can impact your sleep for days and nights after. You can take steps to prevent the effects, however, by following the Sleep Hygiene Cycle. This includes sticking to a sleep schedule with the same bedtimes and wake-up times, even on weekends, daily exercise, avoiding alcohol close to bedtime and taking REMfresh® nightly.