Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Does Turkey Really Make You Sleepy?

Turkeys have been the victim of awful rumors for many years – not the least of which regards their potent ability to induce coma in those that consume their meat every year at Thanksgiving. But is that really true? Can eating Turkey cure the most defeated insomniac?

There is no doubt, by my personal experience, that slumber usually follows a good Thanksgiving meal. Many people have blamed their sleepiness on the chemical called tryptophan that is found in the turkey they have eaten because it is converted to melatonin, a natural molecule that helps people fall asleep. The problem with this line of thinking is that tryptophan is in lots of different types of foods (mostly those high in protein) and is not any higher in turkey than other meats like pork or chicken. How unfair to pick turkey out of the lineup! Why not Pork?

Ironically, the after-dinner drowsiness that we will all experience this week has very little to do with the turkey. Anytime we indulge ourselves at the table, our bodies begin to divert blood, energy, and available resources away from our brain (and eyelids!) to our stomach so that the “heavy” load can be digested. This phenomenon is by God’s design, and is just the way it is. He wants us to rest after we have eaten.

So when your eyes get heavy after your Thanksgiving meal, sit down and snuggle into your favorite recliner while letting the world drift away. It’s good to rest and enjoy your day. But just don’t be so quick to blame your turkey! Happy Thanksgiving from all of us – Dustin, Dawn, Evelyn, and Elizabeth.

Dr. Dustin Gentry is a Family Medicine physician at Winston Medical Center. He has an active clinic, nursing home, and hospital practice at WMC and is available for all your healthcare needs. Read this and other articles at You can schedule an appointment today by calling 773-3503.