Does the tryptophan in turkey make you sleepy?

| 11/24/2004

Whether you indulge in a big turkey dinner with trimmings at the truck stop or at home with your family, afterward you’ll likely be craving the annual Thanksgiving nap. Some say it’s the amino acid in the turkey that is a natural sedative, but experts are brushing this off.

According to nutritional Web sites like Environmental Health and Safety Online, if you’re looking for the sedative effect, it’s unlikely you'll get it from eating meats like turkey. L-tryptophan doesn’t act on the brain unless you take it on an empty stomach with no protein present.

So it probably isn’t at fault for the sudden drowsiness that hits right after the meal. It’s more likely due to overeating, an annual tradition that pulls the blood away from your brain to help your digestive tract do its work.