Or is it just one big, fat Thanksgiving myth?

We’ve all been there: Asleep (or dozing) on the couch after a big Thanksgiving meal. The turkey’s the star of the show, so the poultry must be responsible for making you so darn tired—right?

Let’s Start With the Facts…

Herb-Rubbed Smoked Turkey
Credit: Greg DuPree; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Turkey does contain tryptophan, an amino acid that’s associated with sleep.

Your body uses tryptophan to create a B vitamin called niacin, which helps to create a neurotransmitter called serotonin, which gets converted to a hormone called melatonin.

You’ve probably seen melatonin pills in the drugstore alongside other natural remedies. Melatonin is known for inducing sleep, so it makes sense that some people have made the connection between turkey and drowsiness.

So Does Eating Turkey Really Make You Sleepy?

mr- classic roast turkey
Credit: Victor Protasio; Food Styling: Margaret Dickey; Prop Styling: Heather Chadduck

Here’s the thing: Chicken, meat, cheese, yogurt, eggs, and fish also contain tryptophan, according to Sleep.org. These foods aren’t usually blamed for making people tired, but poor turkey takes all the heat—especially around Thanksgiving.

Furthermore, consuming tryptophan doesn’t impact your serotonin levels right away. There are a ton of amino acids in foods like turkey, and all of these amino acids have to compete to get to the brain. Since tryptophan is often one of the least represented amino acids in these foods, it doesn’t always make it.

There is a way to give it a boost, however. Carbs release insulin, which lowers the levels of the other amino acids and allows tryptophan to more easily get to the brain. 

So, if you’re feeling sleepy after indulging on Thanksgiving, it’s probably not just the turkey that did it—it’s also all that stuffing and mashed potatoes you had on the side.

More than likely, though, you’re tired because Americans eat a lot of food on Thanksgiving. Stuffing your face takes energy, people!

Turkey Recipes

Cajun Smoked Turkey
Credit: Greg DuPree; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Now that you know you’re not in danger of falling asleep in your potatoes, here are some turkey recipes you might want to try this Thanksgiving:

Hungry for more? Check out our 50 best Thanksgiving turkey recipes here.