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The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

Does Thanksgiving Dinner make you Sleepy?

Does Thanksgiving Dinner make you Sleepy?

After eating the two helpings of Thanksgiving Day turkey, cranberry sauce, potatoes, vegetables, and pumpkin pie, you may want to take a long nap. Turkey, of course, contains a natural sedative called Tryptophan. And Tryptophan makes you sleepy, right?

Well…not exactly. Tryptophan doesn’t really have a significant effect because it’s just one of the many Thanksgiving Day factors that cause sleepiness. The “food coma” you experience is actually the result of your body working overtime to digest all that food!

Just consider:

  • The full stomach. A big, solid meal has been shown to induce sleepiness, regardless of what you’ve eaten. In response to a full stomach, your body gears up for digestion. The body increases blood flow to the stomach, which results in decreased oxygenation and decreased blood flow to the brain.
  • Wine, wine, wine. A glass or two of wine — especially for people who only partake on occasion — is all that’s needed to induce sleepiness.
  • A long day. At least for the cook it is — what with getting up early to start all the preparations. It can be exhausting.

Consequently, Tryptophan probably plays some role in the “Thanksgiving coma,” but it’s not the only cause.

Best Dinners for Sleep

Meals that are high in carbohydrates and low-to-medium in protein will help you relax in the evening and set you up for a good night’s rest. Try the following “dinners for sleep”:

  • Pasta with parmesan cheese
  • Scrambled eggs and cheese
  • Tofu stirfry
  • Hummus with whole wheat pita bread
  • Seafood, pasta, and cottage cheese
  • Meats and poultry with veggies
  • Tuna salad sandwich
  • Chili with beans — not spicy
  • Sesame seeds (rich in tryptophan) sprinkled on salad with tuna chunks, and whole wheat crackers

As a rule:

Lighter meals are more likely to give you a restful night’s sleep.

High-fat meals and large servings prolong the work your digestive system needs to do, and all the gas production and stomach-rumblings may keep you awake.

Some people find that highly-seasoned foods (e.g., hot peppers or garlic) interfere with sleep, especially if you suffer from heartburn.

For most people, going to bed with a full stomach does not promote a restful night’s sleep. While you may fall asleep faster, all the intestinal work required to digest a big meal is likely to cause frequent waking and a poorer quality of sleep.

Finally, eat your evening meal early.


7 comments

1 Ali { 11.23.11 at 11:47 am }

One should really stay away from tofu…made with soy beans. All soy is bad for you, unless it is the fermented kind. If you are going to eat soy products (and it’s in everything), make sure it’s non-GMO soy or just eat the fermented stuff.

2 Sandi Duncan { 11.23.10 at 12:23 pm }

Pilgrims — they didn’t eat mashed potatoes – check out http://www.farmersalmanac.com/blog/2008/11/17/what-the-pilgrims-really-ate/

3 Hillbilly Gardener { 11.23.10 at 11:55 am }

Thank you Sandi. I look forward to my Farmers Almanac articles. May you, yours and everyone at the Farmers Almanac have a blessed and thanks filled Thanksgiving.

4 flwrz4ever { 11.23.10 at 11:18 am }

So what did the pilgrims eat?????

5 mrshoneyc { 11.23.10 at 10:58 am }

I also got this page. Here’s it the link referred to in the e-mail:
http://www.farmersalmanac.com/blog/2008/11/17/what-the-pilgrims-really-ate/

6 Sandi Duncan { 11.23.10 at 10:41 am }
7 Hillbilly Gardener { 11.23.10 at 10:32 am }

I got to this page after selecting “What Did The Pilgrims Really Eat” from your email. Wrong link address?

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