Turkey isn’t what makes you sleepy after Thanksgiving dinner

Ah, another Thanksgiving with the family. You know what that means! Yep, you’ll be struggling to make small talk with relatives you only see a couple times each year, dodging awkward political conversations, and dealing with that pesky turkey turning everyone into sleepy zombies by halftime of the second NFL game. There’s just one problem: turkey doesn’t make you sleepy, so let’s all get on the same page about that.

Turkey got a bad rap when it comes to drowsiness because of the amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan promotes the creation of serotonin (makes you feel good) and melatonin (can make you feel sleepy). As armchair scientists (read: your annoying uncle who thinks he knows literally everything) began regaling Thanksgiving visitors with the knowledge that turkey contains tryptophan, it became common “knowledge” that turkey is what makes everyone so darn tired on this festive holiday. Well, it isn’t true.

Research dating back over a decade into the effects of turkey on wakefulness has been attempting to combat this myth to little avail, so let’s get things straight: Yes, turkey contains tryptophan, but as several studies have demonstrated, it doesn’t contain it in amounts significantly different from other common meats. What’s more, the extremely small amount of tryptophan you ingest from a few slices of turkey isn’t nearly enough to cause the energy crash so commonly associated with Thanksgiving meals.

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