The Tryptophan Myth Busted: Is Turkey Really Making You Tired?

Is the bird to blame for an early bedtime, or is it so much more?

Organic Prairie Roast Turkey

Have you heard the rumor about your holiday turkey? Have you been spreading it yourself? Consider this tired myth “debunked” and educate your dinner guests without boring them to sleep... before the food coma hits, of course.

It’s true that turkey contains the amino acid, tryptophan, which can be used as a building block for certain neurotransmitters that cause tiredness. Serotonin, which converts into the melatonin hormone, is known for causing drowsiness. Everyone at the dinner table that indulges in a slice or two of turkey can be found yawning or napping not too long after, so one might deduce that it’s the bird to blame. Not so! You see, tryptophan is in many other foods, like eggs, milk, oatmeal and soy beans. Ounce for ounce, the cheddar cheese baked into your famous mac ‘n cheese contains more tryptophan than turkey. The toasted pumpkin or squash seeds you snack on before the big meal contain twice as much.


Most experts agree, the true culprit can be found in almost all the traditional foods served at Thanksgiving: carbohydrates! When you eat a serving (or two!) of mashed potatoes, stuffing and pecan pie, your body reacts by releasing insulin to bloodstream. Certain amino acids leave the bloodstream during this process, giving tryptophan a leg-up through a competitive pathway through the blood-brain barrier. Once in the brain, tryptophan goes to work forming serotonin and snooze-inducing melatonin.

Many traditional Thanksgiving foods tend to be high in fat and sugar as well, and when they hit the small intestine, a neural response triggers the nervous symptom to slow down and focus on digestion. Digestion itself is a huge undertaking for your body when it comes to the large portions celebrated on Turkey Day. Your brain will divert energy towards the thousands of biomechanical and chemical processes involved in breaking down food into compounds, transferring nutrients throughout the body, and removing waste from the body.

Lauren Bolden’s Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Praline

If you hit the dessert table hard, a “sugar crash” can occur, leading you to lethargy. Booze, whether it be a few glasses of wine or holiday punch, can cause sleepiness as well. Why fight the feeling? As stressful as they may seem, the holidays are a time to relax. Eat, drink, sleep and be merry y’all!

Rest easy and get Thanksgiving delivered. Order by THIS Sunday, 11/18 at midnight to get yours delivered in time for Turkey Day!

The main event:

Roast Turkey with Pan Gravy

First Hand Foods Smoked City Ham

Sides to feed 6 or 12:

Pecan & Apple Dressing

I-Can't-Believe-Biscuits-Can-Be-This-Easy Cream Biscuits

Candied Sweet Potatoes

Roasted Root Vegetables

Creamed Brussels Sprouts

Sweet endings:

Georgia Apple Pie with Organic Butter Crust

Lauren Bolden’s Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Praline

Kentucky Bourbon-Pecan Pie with Organic Butter Crust