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Tryptophan and Sleep

Sleeping after eating turkey.jpgGobble, gobble, gobble! Thanksgiving has come and gone but hopefully you have plenty of leftovers in your fridge. All of that turkey is sure to make you sleepy…or is there something else going on? According to science, the hormone tryptophan that is in turkey has something to do with the fact that we turn comatose after a big Thanksgiving spread. Read on to learn how you can combat the sleepy feeling or ways to roll with the punches and make the most of your afternoon nap time.

Tryptophan and Turkey

What exactly is tryptophan, and why does it make us sleepy? According to Pub Chem, tryptophan is an essential amino acid found in most proteins including meats, fish, dairy, and soybeans, as well as brown rice. Infants need this amino acid for normal growth, and adults need it to balance our nitrogen levels. More tellingly, tryptophan is naturally converted into serotonin, which plays a role in regulating our sleep as a natural sedative.

In order to get the most gain out of this sedative property, you need to also digest vitamin B6, glutathione, and niacin to aid in metabolizing tryptophan. Fortunately for turkey lovers, this protein is also high in vitamin B6 and niacin. Add some garlic, onions, or cruciferous veggies for the glutathione, and you have a perfect meal with some seriously sedative properties. 

Avoiding an After Turkey Snooze

tryptophan-turkey-sandwich-nov23.jpgBut what if you want to stay awake while still enjoying your favorite festive foods? Maybe you hope to get some projects done, decorations up or holiday shopping started – so sleeping instead of being productive is the last thing you want to do. There are some things you can try doing to combat the allure of taking a nap after eating turkey leftovers:

    • Eat a hearty breakfast so you are less likely to stuff yourself with the turkey and stuffing.
    • Add plenty of helpings of veggies and fruits–three cheers for homemade, low-sugar cranberry sauce–to your plate so turkey is not the main attraction to your appetite.
    • Avoid drinking the bubbly, unless it’s sparkling water. Alcohol is a downer and it’ll make you overeat and fall asleep fast.
    • Limit the simple carbs. Yes, we are talking about the homemade rolls, sugar-topped pies, and white potatoes mashed with all that butter. Notice we said limit, not avoid like the plague. It is Thanksgiving, after all!

If you catch yourself in the sleepy zone, go for a refreshing stroll. Have a cup of herbal tea with some honey or maple syrup for a pick-me-up. Grab a game and play with some of the kiddos. You’ll make some lasting memories as you wake up your brain…and get beat at checkers by an eight-year-old.

But if you succumb to the tryptophan…

If you’re ready to roll out on the sofa and take a snooze after eating your turkey leftovers, we have a way for you to make the most of this nap time. For starters, set your alarm and limit your nap to 20 minutes tops. A power nap is enough to recharge your mind and take off the tryptophan edge. It will also help you sleep better later that night.

With these tips, you’ll be ready to tackle any tryptophan-infused meals – but as sleep lovers – we say, “why bother?”

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