Thanksgiving dinner is a special meal that brings people together around one table with their loved ones. It’s always exciting to indulge in delicious festive dishes of casserole, sweet potatoes, stuffing, and pumpkin pie - and of course, the star of the feast, turkey. But we’re all also familiar with the mind fogginess and drowsiness that follows such a heavy meal.
It’s become a tradition to take a nap after a Thanksgiving dinner, regardless of any other plans that were made. Then you wake up from a long nap wondering where the day went and, as a result, have trouble falling asleep at night. But why does Thanksgiving dinner make you sleepy? While some holiday dishes don’t make you sleepy, other dishes can significantly disrupt your sleep quality.
When we are suddenly feeling sluggish and sleepy after a hefty Thanksgiving dinner, we quickly put the blame on the turkey, hence the term “turkey coma”. This is because it is well known that turkey, along with other high-protein foods, contains tryptophan. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that the body uses to produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for making us feel relaxed.
It is also the precursor of melatonin, the sleep hormone. Both serotonin and melatonin are in charge of regulating sleep and maintaining the sleep cycle. Other types of protein that induce tryptophan are eggs, cheese, chicken, and red meat.
However, the amount of tryptophan in turkey is actually less than that in chicken and red meat - in other words, it isn’t enough to promote sleep. This small percentage wouldn’t increase even if you ate the whole turkey (we don’t recommend doing that). That is because you can’t split or change the amount of amino acids in whole foods.
Additionally, for tryptophan to enter your brain, it’ll have to compete with other amino acids in your body. Needless to say, with this small dose - it won’t win the race. Turkey is very nutritious and may even help boost your sleep quality at night. Now that we know not to blame the poor bird - what is to blame for post-turkey snoozing?
The culprits for feeling sleepy after Thanksgiving dinner are the side dishes that go along with turkey, like bread stuffing, mac and cheese, potatoes, and pies. Thanksgiving is popular for having a lot of foods that are high in carbohydrates and sugar. Even though they’re all delicious, these dishes are the reason for your drowsiness after eating dinner.
A lot of carbs spike your blood sugar levels. As a result, your energy increases, and insulin is produced to fight the high blood sugar level. Since a lot of energy is consumed, it’ll leave you feeling drained and sleepy - which is experiencing the post-dinner crash. Additionally, you eat larger than normal portions because of the wide variety of dishes, which makes your body work harder on digesting the food. This induces sleep, raises the risk of heartburn, and will deteriorate your sleep quality at night.
It is recommended to have your last meal at least 3 hours before bedtime to give your body enough time to digest it. Your metabolism slows down as your body prepares for sleep, so having a heavy meal late in the evening isn’t recommended.
However, if there is no escaping a post-thanksgiving dinner nap, it is important to ensure it is no longer than 30 minutes. If your nap is longer than this, it’ll be very hard to fall asleep at night. Consider planning dinner earlier in the day, at around 3 or 4 p.m., so that you have an efficient amount of time to digest before sleeping. If you still feel hungry after dinner or get late-night cravings, avoid foods that are high in carbs or sugar. Instead, consider healthier foods that help you sleep like nuts, leafy greens, fruits, oatmeal, yogurt, or avocado toast.
After a long hectic day, you’re in need of a good night’s sleep. With these few tips, you’ll be able to sleep well on Thanksgiving - and every night after!
After having Thanksgiving dinner, consider going on a short walk to stay active and keep drowsiness at bay. Since a nap isn’t advised, a 15-minute walk can aid digestion, boost your mood, and reduce stress levels. Light exercise an hour or two before sleeping can reduce daytime fatigue and enhance your sleep quality.
The holidays are stressful so getting enough sleep is important to prepare yourself for a busy day. It can be hard to fall asleep with a hundred tasks on your mind, so you need to prepare your bedroom to encourage relaxation and sleep. A mattress that’s too soft or too firm will make you wake up with stiffness, back pain, and in a bad mood. A Puffy Lux Hybrid Mattress is a medium-plush mattress that provides the perfect balance between comfort and support.
We’re sure you’ll fall asleep the minute you lay on this cloud-like mattress! Complete your sleep upgrade with a Puffy pillow that’ll gently cradle your head and properly support the natural curve of the neck. And the final touch for long restful sleep - wrap yourself in a Puffy weighted blanket. A weighted blanket is designed to apply gentle pressure stimulation that helps relax the body and feels like a hug. Additionally, it is recommended to sleep in a quiet, dark, and cool room to eliminate any sleep interruptions.
Caffeine isn’t only a stimulant that spikes your energy level, it also slows down your digestion, which makes it even harder to go to sleep at night. As tempting as it may be after the holiday feast, try to stop drinking caffeine (coffee, soda, or energy drinks) at least 6 hours before bedtime.
As for alcohol, even though it does make you drowsy - it’s actually doing more harm than good. Similar to coffee, it triggers indigestion and keeps you from reaching deep sleep. As a result, you’ll be groggy in the morning from the lack of sleep. There’s nothing wrong with having a glass of red wine with dinner, but limiting your consumption of alcohol before nighttime is important.
Thanksgiving dinner can be both a joyous and stressful occasion. It is important to make the right preparations to make it the best Thanksgiving for your family - and your health! As tempting as it may be to smother turkey with gravy or reach for a second slice of pie, it’ll only backfire on your sleep at night. Don’t forget to eat moderately and focus on healthier foods like salads, green beans, and most importantly, turkey!