Why Thanksgiving Makes You Tired, It’s Not What You Think

Don’t be so quick to point your finger at the innocent turkey when your Thanksgiving feast coma sets in this year.

We would bet you’ve had a turkey salad before and not ended up in the classic post meal couch slump position. It’s true, turkey does contain the amino acid tryptophan, a brain chemical which can be converted to serotonin (known as the happiness hormone) and eventually melatonin (the sleepiness hormone). Turkey isn’t the only source of tryptophan.

In fact, pumpkin seeds, soybeans, and cheese all contain more tryptophan per 100 gram serving than turkey. Just because a food is high in tryptophan doesn’t mean it will make you sleepy. Tryptophan must compete with 6-7 other amigos for entry into the brain before these conversions can take place.

The real blame is the mother-load of carbohydrates and alcohol that dominate the feast. Mashed potatoes, stuffing, yams soaked with brown sugar and covered in toasted marshmallows are the real culprits.

Also, when we consume large meals, along with carbohydrates the release of insulin occurs to help the body metabolize the influx of sugar in the blood stream. However, insulin also acts upon amino acids, promoting their absorption into the heart, muscle and organ tissues, but it leaves tryptophan behind. Now with less competition, tryptophan easily gains access to the brain and begins to work its magic.

This strategy is used as a nutritional treatment for those that have a suspected serotonin deficiency or trouble sleeping. Anytime high tryptophan foods are paired with carbohydrates in a reasonably big meal it’s possible to result in an increase in serotonin and melatonin. (Think about the last year’s Super Bowl party.)

Of course, there are other reasons you may feel fatigued after Thanksgiving. The work that goes into prepping the Thanksgiving feast is enough to tire anyone out.

Plus, if you’re traveling time zone changes, late flights, long hours driving, dehydration, and the initial excitement of the day are other culprits of your fatigue as well.

Drinks anyone? Alcohol is a known culprit as it’s sedative effect often causes sleepiness too.

So this year, when someone blames the turkey for their tiredness, you can share with the whole table what you learned, but you better be quick about it before they fall asleep whilst you’re talking!