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Is it turkey that makes you sleepy? Or...

The truth is, turkey doesn’t even contain that high a concentration of tryptophan, the sleep-inducing amino acid, compared to other types of poultry, pork, and even cheese. So what’s the science behind postprandial somnolence, the fancy name for the sleepy, sluggish feeling that strikes after eating a big meal?.

Around this time of year, for starters, those holiday menus don’t tend to shy away from high-calorie and high-fat dishes (except for The Greatist Thanksgiving, of course). And when second (or third) helpings of those heavy-hitters go down, blood flows to the digestive system to help it function properly. As a result, the rest of the body’s systems (including the brain) can start to feel a little slow. Think of this as “rest and digest” — the opposite of the “fight or flight” response.

Another reason we feel the sudden need to catch some extra Zzz’s is thanks to high glucose levels in the blood stream. This triggers the release of insulin. The increase of insulin boosts the amount of tryptophan that’s picked up by the blood, leaving less free tryptophan floating around the body and decreasing the flow of the amino acid to the brain. But that increase in insulin also reduces the amount of other antioxidants in the blood — and reduces the levels of those guys even more. The result? A slightly elevated level of tryptophan. Hello, heavy eyelids! Research also shows spikes in glucose can effectively switch off the neurons in the brain responsible for keeping us up and at ‘em. Glucose overload can also switch on the neurons that promote sleep (and turn us into those lazy couch potatoes).

Is there anyone out there?


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