You've probably heard that eating turkey makes you sleepy. Or maybe by now you've heard that it's just a myth! Science says that you can indeed get sleepy after eating your Thanksgiving meal, but the turkey is not to blame.
Turkey contains the amino acid L-tryptophan. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. After we've digested our turkey, L-tryptophan travels to our brain and is transformed into another chemical called serotonin. Our bodies serotonin use to calm us down and help us sleep. Scientists understand that L-tryptophan can only make a person tired right away if there are no other amino acids present in the meal. There are actually a lot of other amino acids in the turkey, besides the L-tryptophan, so turkey cannot be the culprit.
So why do we feel sleepy after Thanksgiving? There are other reasons why eating a large meal might make you sleepy. When you eat a lot of food, blood moves to the stomach to aid with digestion and away from other areas. With your blood headed towards the stomach there is not as much oxygenating your brain. It's what I like to refer to as the "food coma".
Kids can read more about this phenomena in this article at Kidshealth.org.
Looking for a turkey science activity? Try this from the National Science Teacher's Association. "Time's Up, Turkey- Pop-up Thermometers"