It is not unusual to feel relaxed or even drowsy after a large, satisfying meal. Thanksgiving and Christmas Turkey have a long standing reputation as the meal that “puts you to sleep” but modern science tells us it isn’t necessarily the bird sending you off to slumber.
Turkey has L-Tryptophan in it. L-Tryptophan is an amino acid that has a sleep inducing effect. The body uses Tryptophan in the process of making B3 and serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates sleep. It can’t be produced in our bodies so we need to get it through food. When people eat a big meal; as they often do on special occasions like Thanksgiving, they find that they want to nap afterwards. For decades people have said that eating turkey makes them sleepy.
If you have sleep problems, don’t rush out to the market and fill your shopping cart full of turkey products. It turns out that Turkey isn’t really the sleep mechanism people think it is. Scientific studies show that tryptophan needs to be taken on an empty stomach and without any other amino acids or protein to make you really drowsy. It is also important to note that chicken, pork, and cheese contain as much or in some cases even more tryptophan than turkey does.
Nutritionists have discovered that when you mix carbohydrates with tryptophan it increases the amino acids in the brain which leads to serotonin synthesis. This process leads to a sleepy feeling. Fats also zap you of your energy so that you feel even more inclined to lie down and fall asleep.
When people sit down to enjoy a big meal, alcohol is often included. Physicians remind us that alcohol is a depressant so mix it with the foods with tryptophan, as well as fatty foods and you have the perfect recipe for a nap.
Family celebrations are one of those rare occasions when people actually find themselves relaxed. Sleep disorder specialists suggest that being relaxed, eating carbohydrates, fats; and drinking wine in combination can make even the most energized person suddenly turn sluggish.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, insomnia is the most common sleep problem in America. There are various treatment methods to induce sleep, as well as traditional medicines and herbs to help people who suffer from sleep disorders. For several years people in the United States turned to tryptophan pills when it came to treatment for insomnia, but in 1989 the U.S Food and Drug Administration banned the pills due to reports of health problems. A new product called, hydroxytryptophan is now available in health food stores and some drugstores. Like the tryptophan in the food we consume, 5-HTP is converted to serotonin in the brain. According to the University of Berkley both the Mayo Clinic and the FDA have found impurities in the product, but there have been no reported cases of illness.
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If you are seeking treatment for a sleep problem, it is never a good idea to take matters into your own hands; seek professional guidance. As for those big meals, if you want to avoid that sluggish feeling right after you eat, be conscious of what foods you are mixing together.