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Sleepy after Thanksgiving dinner? Turkey isn’t solely to blame

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — After enjoying Thanksgiving dinner, it’s likely many people will soon hit the couch for a solid nap.

Why do people get so sleepy on Thanksgiving? One thing’s for sure, it’s no coincidence. There’s science to back it up.  

A common misconception is that it’s the naturally occurring chemical tryptophan released from a person’s brain after their turkey dinner that makes them want to put their head down for a snooze. However, according to scientists at Oklahoma State University, tryptophan isn’t the culprit. It’s the hormone responsible for the sleep-wake cycle: melatonin.

“Thanksgiving menus often contain a copious number of foods high in sugar and carbohydrates. The amount of serotonin in a person’s brain becomes metabolized into melatonin as turkey and carbohydrates are digested,” Darren Scott, a food scientist at Oklahoma State University, said in a news release. “It’s the melatonin that scientists think makes people feel drowsy.”

Research shows the shift in blood flow to the body’s digestive tract after the large meal is also to blame.