Does Thanksgiving Turkey Make You Sleepy?

By Ashley Henshaw. May 7th 2016

Have you ever experienced that overwhelming tired feeling immediately after eating Thanksgiving dinner? If so, you're not alone. In fact, many people believe that a specific nutrient in turkey meat actually causes people who eat it to feel tired after a meal. In this article, you'll learn to separate the fact from the myth when it comes to your post-Thanksgiving meal nap.

Myths About Turkey and Sleepiness

Many people claim that the sleepiness that comes after eating turkey is from something called tryptophan. It's true that turkey does contain one kind of amino acid called L-tryptophan. When this amino acid is consumed, it is taken through the digestive system and eventually to the brain. There, it is converted into serotonin, a chemical which creates a calm, relaxed feeling that can help a person fall asleep.

Based on these facts, you might think that the rumors about tryptophan are true. However, researchers have verified that you can only get sleepy right away after consuming tryptophan if you eat it by itself without any other amino acids. Turkey contains many other amino acids, so tryptophan can't be the reason that turkey makes you feel sleepy. In fact, there are plenty of other foods that contain a higher concentration of tryptophan than turkey, such as soybeans.

Possible Reasons Why You Get Tired

The real reason that many people feel tired after Thanksgiving dinner has less to do with turkey and more to do with food in general. Most people feel sleepy after Thanksgiving dinner due to the change in their blood flow. Consuming a large meal causes blood flow to the stomach to increase in order to aid in digestion. This diverts some of the blood flow from the brain. As that blood flow to the brain decreases, you begin to feel more and more tired. The result is the urge to lie down or even to take a nap. Naturally, the more food you eat, the more your body will have to work to digest that food. Since many people eat meals which are larger than usual on Thanksgiving, they also find that they feel more tired than usual after the meal is over.

How to Keep from Getting Sleepy

There are plenty of method you can utilize in order to prevent that tired feeling commonly associated with eating turkey. The list below includes several great tips and tricks for staying alert and active, even after eating a Thanksgiving meal:

  • A great way to skip the Thanksgiving Day food coma is to play a family game of touch football after you are done eating. Most people would probably prefer watching football on the couch so that they can digest all that food, but that is one of the fastest ways to fall asleep after such a big meal.
  • Stop eating once you're full. If you don't want to miss out on your favorite foods, make sure to try a little of each at the beginning of your meal. Then, set aside some of your favorites for leftovers that you can enjoy slowly over the coming days.
  • Eat lightly during the day leading up to your Thanksgiving meal. Make sure you don't try to starve yourself so that you can gorge on turkey and other classic Thanksgiving dishes on this holiday. That will only make the feelings of tiredness worse afterwards.
  • Eat slowly, making sure to drink water throughout the meal. If you pause your eating for a few minutes at a time throughout the meal and give yourself a long period of time to eat, you'll allow your body to start working on digestion before you finish the meal. This keeps your body from being overwhelming by large amounts of food that are eaten too quickly.
  • Cut down on some of the carbohydrates you consume during your meal. These may take your body longer to digest and increase your chances of feeling sleepy. Instead, add a few more fruits and vegetables to your meal.
  • Limit the amount of alcohol you drink during the meal. Drinking alcohol can also make you sleepy, and combined with a large meal the effects can be more significant. If you do want to drink, have just a glass or two and drink slowly throughout the meal.
  • Take a walk after your meal. This will aid in digestion so that your body can process the food you've just eaten more effectively. Additionally, it will perk you up and keep you from feeling sluggish - a feeling that is commonly felt by those who plop down on the couch right after eating.


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