What’s the main course for you and your family this Christmas? Roast beef? Ham? Turkey? If your answer to that question was turkey, then you had better get cozy by the fireplace after your meal because it’s nap time!
There are a couple of reasons why turkey is associated with sleepiness. The first is that turkey is rich in tryptophan. Tryptophan is converted into serotonin, which has a calming, slightly sedating effect. This is why you’re ready for a nap after you indulge in turkey!
There are other foods that are rich in tryptophan as well. Foods such as chicken, eggs, fish, milk, and pumpkin seeds are all high in tryptophan, but they don’t make you sleepy like turkey. Why is this? It could be because you eat very large amounts of tryptophan. However, it’s more likely that during the holidays, you also eat large amounts of carbs, particularly stuffing and potatoes. This high intake of carbs causes significant spikes in your blood sugar levels.
As a result of the sugar spike, your sugar levels will then drop about an hour to an hour and a half after eating the food. This drop is what makes people sleepy! It’s very similar to when you have a carb-loaded pasta meal and an hour or two later, you feel very tired.
Maybe it’s solely the tryptophan. Maybe it’s solely the carbohydrates. Perhaps it’s a combination of the two. Regardless, it is a very unique phenomenon that we do see not only during the holidays, but also at other times.
Another part of this phenomenon to consider is that it tends to happen after lunchtime and after eating large quantities of carbohydrates. We don’t notice it as much after dinnertime. This is probably because we eat excessive amounts of carbs and food during lunchtime in America, especially during the holidays. This exacerbates post-eating sleepiness and fatigue.
In my experience and opinion, I think it’s probably a combination of all the above – the turkey, the tryptophan, and the large meals in that 12 to 3 o’clock timeframe that are heavy in carbohydrates!
Since 2010, Richmond Integrative and Functional Medicine has been helping people to restore their health and hope with an integrative approach to conventional and alternative medicine that’s entirely science-backed. We at RIFM believe everyone is made for health. We offer a comprehensive, in-person patient membership program to ensure you get access to the care you need to thrive.
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