Legend has it that the tryptophan-rich turkey is the reason behind those snoozers sprawled out in your living room after the leftovers are put away.
Tryptophan is one of 20 amino acids found in foods and can be converted in your brain to the neurotransmitters, serotonin and melatonin. Since both of these compounds play an important role in regulating sleep, it seems logical that tryptophan has always been blamed as the culprit behind the Thanksgiving Day lethargy.
But turkey isn’t the only potent source of tryptophan in the diet. In fact, a roasted chicken breast actually contains more tryptophan than turkey. Do your guests fall asleep after you serve them a chicken dinner?
Thanksgiving Day drowsiness is more likely caused by another culprit or a combination of circumstances that are part of this holiday’s festivities. According to the experts at the American Institute for Cancer Research, when you eat a very large meal, such as turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, gravy, and pumpkin pie, your gastrointestinal tract has to work harder to digest all that food. In order for your body to do this extra work, some of your body’s blood supply is redirected away from your brain to the gut. This shifting of energy-rich blood from the brain to your GI tract can cause you to feel, well, sluggish.
Your beverage of choice at dinner may also play a role. Alcohol has sedating properties, so if you are enjoying your dinner with a bottle of Pinot Noir, there is a good chance that some of your guests will be snoring before dessert is served.
Lastly, daytime naps are a product of opportunity, so Thanksgiving Day ends up being a popular day to nap, because the opportunity presents itself. After the football games are over, what else is there to do?
And if you plan to head out at midnight to power shop on Black Friday, it may make sense to take an afternoon nap on Thanksgiving Day.