If you're one of the thousands of families that ate turkey at Christmas, it could be to blame for your post-Christmas sleepiness. There’s been a debate for years now, about whether turkey makes you sleep and why. We’ve decided to bust the myth and discover whether this festive bird really does make you want to snooze more than normal.
The essential amino acid called tryptophan is found in turkey, and is known as a natural sedative. Long story short, serotonin is a chemical that acts as a relaxing agent in the brain, and plays an essential role in sleep, especially when it is used to produce the hormone melatonin, that helps to distinguish your sleep cycles.
The myth goes that because turkey has a decent amount of tryptophan that translates into serotonin, it definitely is a food that will put you to sleep. When you think of consuming turkey, it’s normally a BIG meal for a big celebration – in Australia it’s usually Christmas. From the mashed potatoes, to bread and massive dessert, your body is working incredibly hard to digest the high amount of calories it’s consumed.
You’re bound to feel tired and lethargic, especially if you’ve had a cheeky drink or two with your Christmas lunch or dinner. Whilst turkey does contain tryptophan, it’s been proven that other poultry has just as much (if not more) of the essential amino acid. In fact, it’s not the tryptophan by itself that will give you the serotonin boost – it’s combining it with a small carbohydrate snack.
If you eat chicken or turkey, and then follow it with a small potato or a bread roll, you’ll get the most out of your tryptophan boost. The all-carbohydrate snacks (approx 30g) will help to carry the tryptophan across the blood-brain barrier, where it will assist to boost serotonin levels faster. Without this added carbohydrate snack, (which, let’s face it – most of us are having a piece of bread or potatoes with the poultry), the consumption of turkey isn’t enough to make you sleepier than normal.
The myth stems from most people feeling absolutely stuffed after a big Christmas feast. You've been running around with the kids, chasing the dog and opening presents, of course you're bound to feel tired! If you've ever heard of the term food coma, it literally stems from these gigantic holiday meals that we all treat ourselves to a few times a year.
So at the end of the day, you can’t blame your turkey for making you sleepy – it’s the combination of a massive meal, dessert, alcohol and the festivities during the day. Go forth and eat thy turkey – just don’t blame it for making you sleepy!