Thursday, Nov. 15 2007
K-STATE EXPERTS SAY TURKEY NOT ONLY REASON FOR THAT POST-THANKSGIVING MEAL NAP
MANHATTAN -- As you flop on the couch after that Thanksgiving meal with all the fixings, you may find yourself drifting into an afternoon nap.
Some say tryptophan, an amino acid found in turkey, has proved itself to be an effective sleep aid, causing that post-Thanksgiving meal sleepiness.
Scott Beyer, associate professor of animal sciences and industry and poultry researcher at Kansas State University, said that according to scientific research, tryptophan can make people sleepy -- but it is not solely responsible for that post-Thanksgiving meal sleepiness.
Only a small percentage of tryptophan can be found turkey, Beyer said. The sleepiness caused after a Thanksgiving dinner probably has more to do with the actual meal, which is high in fat and carbohydrates, he said, and if you had any alcohol with the meal.
Tryptophan is a precursor of serotonin, a neurotransmitter produced in the brain that can affect mood, according to Delores Takemoto, K-State professor of biochemistry. Serotonin can give you a calm and happy feeling, making you more relaxed and able to fall asleep easier, she said.
"But too much tryptophan and your body may produce more serotonin, which is something you don't need -- unless you are depressed," Takemoto said. To treat depression, a doctor may prescribe Prozac because the drug prevents the re-uptake of serotonin, thus allowing it to be around longer in the body, she said.
"But the amount of tryptophan in turkey or in warm milk may help you to get to sleep," Takemoto said.