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Most Weber State University students have heard of the sleepiness experienced after eating turkey on Thanksgiving day, but whether or not this can be attributed to the turkey alone is a debated subject.
Carlee Huckleberry, a WSU freshman, said she learned about turkey creating tiredness in a high school psychology class she took, but she wasn’t sure if it’s true.
“I get tired after I eat a lot,” Huckleberry said. “Not sure if it’s true, because I get tired anyway.”
Jenifer Johnson, a WSU senior, echoed this idea. She said she wasn’t sure if it is specifically from the turkey, even though she had heard that before, or if it’s from big meals in general.
“When I eat a lot of food,” Johnson said, “my next step is to take a nap.”
Several other WSU students said they are not sure the lethargy is because of the turkey, while others, who said they did firmly believe the turkey induces sleepiness, attributed it to the tryptophan found in turkey meat.
Michael Head, a WSU junior, said he thinks the tryptophan is something people buy into.
“I think it’s fake,” Head said, “but your brain makes you think it’s true.”
Jim Hutchins, a professor in the health sciences department, confirmed that there is tryptophan in turkey, but that is not the main contributor to Thanksgiving tiredness.
“There’s a kernel of truth in it,” Hutchins said. “Tryptophan is found in meats, including in turkey, and tryptophan is used to make serotonin and melatonin, which are known to regulate your mood.”
Hutchins explained how the body reacts to large meals, which is the real contributor to Thanksgiving tiredness. He said that, in general, big meals make people sleepy.
“There’s a letdown after you eat any meal, whether it’s a lot of meat or not,” Hutchins said. “Then there’s a drop in blood sugar, so people feel tired after they eat big meals anyway.”
Hutchins said insulin is released right after eating, but it takes a while for the food eaten to be absorbed into the bloodstream to raise the blood sugar level back up.
He said the kernel of truth associated with tryptophan is why it’s such a widely recognized and accepted myth of turkey tiredness.
“Melatonin rises just before you go to sleep,” Hutchins said, “so some people feel that, by stimulating that rise in melatonin levels, you can induce a natural sleep.”