Urban legend (and no doubt rural as well) has it that the L-tryptophan in turkey renders Thanksgiving revelers sound asleep shortly after finishing their yearly repast.
There are a few flaws to this theory, however. First, there isn’t any more tryptophan in turkey than in most other protein products we consume, and second, to enter sleep nirvana through ingesting tryptophan requires an empty stomach and the absense of any other amino acids or proteins in the tummy.
The thing with our tummies, however, is just the opposite on T-Day. We overload ourselves with all kinds of good stuff in addition to the trace amounts of L-tryptophan we get with our turkey.
So what’s up? What causes Thanksgiving beddy-bye time after eating turkey?
The first answer is that overall we simply eat too much, and we eat too much in the way of carbohydrates, which turn to sugar, causing an initial rush of energy, but which then leads to the sugar blues as our insulin completes the process of breaking down the carb sugars into fat.
A more complete answer, however, still relies on the overconsumption of carbohydrates but does indeed bring L-tryptophan back into play. As the pancreas releases insulin, which is a hormone, to break down the carb sugars, the insulin stimulates the muscles to absorb many of the amino acids in our system — but not the tryptophan that is also present. Hence the tryptophan is left to attack the spinal cord and brain, which in turn converts the L-tryptophan into serotonin.
Okay, we’re getting a bit chemically complicated here, but the serotonin is then metabolized by the pineal gland into melatonin, one of nature’s sleeping pills. Voila — bedtime!
Of course, there’s still another — and perhaps more logical — reason why you fall asleep: You drink too much darn booze on T-Day!
Anyway, Happy Thanksgiving to all from The Snoring Center.
(Though we’re joking about sleep here, sleep is very vital to your health, so please seek out professional help if you aren’t getting your proper rest each night and suffer physically and emotionally each day.)