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No, the Tryptophan in Turkey Won’t Make You Sleepy

As the common myth goes, you’re ready for bed soon after Thanksgiving dinner because the turkey you eat is loaded with tryptophan, which makes you drowsy and drags you into slumber.

It’s a line often repeated, but it’s not true.

Tryptophan is an amino acid that is a precursor for the brain chemical serotonin, which is associated with healthy sleep. But there is no more tryptophan in turkey than in other common meats like chicken and beef. Other foods, including nuts and cheeses, contain more.

While tryptophan could make you drowsy on its own, its effects are limited in the presence of other amino acids, of which turkey has many.

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You might be extra tired after your meal, but don’t blame the turkey; it could just be that you overate. With potatoes, stuffing, yams, rolls and pie on top of that turkey, you’re inhaling a lot of carbs.

Don’t believe us? That’s a shame, but Snopes is among those that have also squashed the rumor. Or there are NPR, LiveScience, Wired and Texas A&M University.

Nicolaas Deutz, a nutrition expert at Texas A&M, has studied the actual effects of tryptophan and confirmed that the turkey has little to do with your post-pie coma.

“Turkey is not special in relation to the other meats,” he said. “You just eat a lot of meat, but if you would eat a steak you would feel as satisfied as with the turkey.”

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