TRENTON, N.J. - Feel sleepy after the big Thanksgiving meal today? Contrary to popular thinking, it's not the turkey's fault.
While there is an amino acid in turkey that induces sleepiness, specialists say it's much more likely that you're tired after having Thanksgiving dinner because you ate and drank too much and didn't sleep enough.
So don't blame the turkey.
"The poor turkeys have enough problems on Thanksgiving," said Dr. Carol Ash of Somerset Medical Center's Sleep for Life Center in Hillsborough, N.J.
Turkey gets blamed for making people sleepy because it contains tryptophan, an amino acid that produces the brain chemical serotonin, which promotes calm and sleepiness. But as part of a big dinner, the tryptophan has a hard time reaching the brain.
Even if it did, "you'd have to ingest quite a number of turkeys" for it to have an effect, she said.
If the tiredness has anything to do with dinner, Ash said, it would be because of carbohydrates, which studies show are more likely to make people sleepy. Even that would only be a small factor, she said. There's the travel, working longer days to get things done, and lack of sleep, along with the carbs and alcohol, she said.
Overeating also contributes to feeling tired at Thanksgiving, said Joan Salge Blake, a nutrition professor at Boston University.