It’s not exactly fair to blame turkey for the urge to take a nap on Thanksgiving, according to the Washington Post.
It’s almost Thanksgiving, and that means it’s time to eat — and time to nap. You may have heard that turkey is to blame for your post-Thanksgiving sleepiness. But although turkey does contain a chemical that makes humans want to curl up in bed, you can’t blame your sluggishness on the bird. Stuffing is the more likely culprit.
Many people believe that turkey makes them sleepy, and for good reason: The meat contains an amino (ah-ME-no) acid — those are the building blocks of proteins — called tryptophan (TRIP-toe-fan). It helps the body make important chemicals called hormones, including melatonin (MEL-ah-TOE-nin). High melatonin levels tell your brain it’s time to go to sleep.
“Melatonin is well-known as being the hormone that lulls everyone to sleep. So people assume that this must be why turkey makes everyone so sleepy,” says Kimberley Chien, a doctor at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian Hospital whose specialty is kids’ digestive systems. But lots of other foods have tryptophan — even chocolate has it — and some meats contain more of it than turkey does. So why is it just turkey that has a reputation for making us drowsy?