Every fourth Thursday in November, families all across the country find themselves gathered around the table indulging in stuffing, potatoes, pies, cranberry sauce and, of course, turkey. But between the delicious lunch and the leftovers for dinner, you may find the stray family member asleep on the couch. We’ve always been told that it’s the Thanksgiving turkey that induces our mid-afternoon nap, but is that true? We did some research and gathered the facts.

What is L-Tryptophan?
L-tryptophan is an essential amino acid that the body needs but cannot make on its own, so the foods we eat must supply it. Tryptophan is indeed found in turkey, but it can also be found in other poultry, meat, cheese, fish, yogurt and eggs. Tryptophan is used by the body to make niacin, a B vitamin that is important for digestion, skin and nerves, and serotonin, which is a brain chemical that plays a large role in mood and can help create a feeling of well-being and relaxation. Serotonin is used to produce melatonin, a hormone that helps control your sleep and wake cycles.

Is Turkey to blame for our afternoon naps?
It turns out that turkey has no more tryptophan than other kinds of poultry. Actually, turkey has less tryptophan than chicken. So if you’re sleepy on Thanksgiving because of the turkey, then eating chicken should have the same effect. So why do we feel sleepy after a Thanksgiving meal? It may have something to do with the three plates of food we just ate.

Thanksgiving is a time when many people overeat. Combined with a relaxing time off from work and a couple glasses of alcohol, it’s no surprise that we find Uncle Ted conked out on the couch.

So don’t blame the turkey this year. Instead, eat in moderation and keep the alcohol to a minimum so you can avoid the afternoon crash and finish watching the football game!