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Turkeys, Carbohydrates and Sleepiness

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and everywhere people afterward will complain that eating  turkey made them sleepy because of the tryptophan in the bird. Is this true?

Not really, but it makes for a good line of gravy talk (tryptophan occurs only in small amounts in a turkey). What really causes people to get sleepy at Thanksgiving is an overload of carbohydrates — from the potatoes, yams, corn, desserts, bread and the like.

Carbohydrates create glucose (sugar) in the blood stream, and the body dispatches insulin to deal with this sugary overload. The insulin then deposits the sugar as muscle and fat, the more of the latter the more you eat carb-rich foods on a regular basis.

Now since these carbs have turned into sugar, you first get what’s called in popular parlance “a sugar rush,” followed quickly by “the sugar blues.” In other words, the rush (or the high, as it is) is quickly followed by a crash. Voila — you get sleepy and crash from a carb overload on Thanksgiving.

Since everyone expects to crash on T-Day, there’s no need to worry about carbohydrates on that particular day, but on other days of the year when you need to stay awake, you may want to watch your carb intake, especially straight sugar carbs.

Now, if you suffer from insomnia, extra carbs can help by making you sleepy, but think of of it this: If you ate everyday like you do on Thanksgiving in hopes of curing your insomnia, you’d probably end up gaining gobs of weight and developing possible diabetes, thus creating an even worse problem.

So, the bottom line if you have problems sleeping at night is to examine both your dietary habits and your sleeping habits (called good sleep hygiene) to give yourself the best rest you can.

If you still have problems sleeping after giving it your best try, then it’s time to seek professional help. Get a sleep evaluation, talk to a sleep doctor, see what can be done.

Sleep is essential for health and happiness, so don’t shortchange yourself by thinking it’s normal to be challenged on the sleep front. Sleep deprivation might be a byproduct of our hectic society, but it’s neither good nor necessary. Get help today if you’re not getting the most out of your nightly sleep. You can acheive even more in life when well rested.

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