Every year at Thanksgiving millions of Americans celebrate with a holiday feast that includes turley and often blame the bird for their post-dinner sleepiness and desire to to take a nap. That’s probably because most people know that turkey contains tryptophan, an amino acid that can have sleep inducing effects.
L-Tryptophan, naturally found in animal and plant proteins, is considered an essential amino acid because our bodies can't make it. It’s needed for the body to produce serotonin, which is used to make the hormone melatonin that helps to control sleep and wake cycles.
But Tryptophan is not only found in turkey. It’s found in other poultry, meat, cheese, yogurt, fish, and eggs. And turkey contains no more tryptophan than other kinds of poultry. Turkey actually has slightly less tryptophan than chicken.
If you’re feeling sleepy on Thanksgiving it’s more likely a result of overeating and not the turkey. The digestion process takes a lot of energy and most people don’t normally stuff themselves with such a big meal on a regular basis.
Although the effects of L-tryptophan are still being studied, there are some claims it may be helpful in treating a variety of issues including insomnia, sleep apnea, depression, anxiety, facial pain, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, smoking cessation, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Tourette's syndrome, and to improve athletic performance.