It’s Not the Turkey — Here’s the Real Reason You’re Tired on Thanksgiving

Have you ever fallen into a "food coma?" It's not as serious as it sounds. It's a fun way to describe the way you feel after a big meal. If you're anything like me, you're a little sluggish and ready for a nap.

And this is especially true during Thanksgiving. In fact, it's so common on Thanksgiving that a lot of people blame the turkey! But it turns out, there are other reasons you're feeling so tired after the big meal.

But first, let me tackle the age-old question:

Does Turkey Make You Tired?

Well, the answer is yes and no.

You see, the idea of turkey making you sleepy comes from tryptophan. It's an amino acid that helps your body make serotonin — the happy hormone. But during the transformation process, your body makes 1 other hormone: melatonin. The sleepy hormone.

So yes, eating a lot of turkey can make you sleepy. But it's probably not the only thing tiring you out on Thanksgiving.

What Else Can Make You So Tired on Thanksgiving?

Again, there's likely a number of reasons. Here are a few things that could be drooping your eyelids on turkey day.

The first is overeating. This one is pretty understandable. Usually, Thanksgiving is the tastiest day of the year. So it makes sense to grab an extra slice of pumpkin pie while it's warm.

But it may be the reason you feel so tired after your meal. Research shows that high-carb and high-fat meals lead to post-meal sleepiness. 

Carb-based meals can also make you fall asleep faster. Foods like potatoes and sugar cause your blood sugar to rise quickly. And once your blood sugar rises? Tryptophan has an easier time traveling through your bloodstream.

Another reason could be alcohol. Most folks will have an extra drink or 2 around the holidays. And there's nothing wrong with that. But it could be the reason you want that mid-afternoon nap.

You see, alcohol slows down your brain and depresses your nervous system. So one drink probably won't make you feel tired. But after a few? You'll definitely start looking for a bed.

Unfortunately, alcohol can also disrupt your sleep in the middle of the night. You might wake up several times in the middle of the night after drinking. Or you could get a dose of insomnia. Neither one sounds pleasant to me. So maybe it's better to avoid too many drinks this holiday season.

One that you may not think about is Seasonal Affective Disorder. The abbreviation is SAD, which is fitting because it's a form of depression. As many as 3% of people suffer from SAD because of the lack of sunlight in the winter months. And it can hurt your sleep cycle — which could be why you're tired halfway through the big holidays.

So you're probably asking yourself…

How Do I Avoid Feeling Sleepy During the Holidays?

Luckily for you, it's not too hard. There are some easy steps you can take to stay energized throughout the holidays.

  • Get Enough Sleep. This one is obvious. Holidays can really mess up your sleep schedule. So make sure you're still finding time for some shut-eye.
  • Eat Less. This feels like the cardinal sin for Thanksgiving. Especially with so much tasty food. But if you eat till you're full, rather than eat everything that looks good, you could feel more alert and awake.
  • Avoid the Bar. Try to limit how much you drink. Maybe think about swapping a glass of wine for some holiday cider. You'll certainly feel better in the morning.
  • Take Time to Exercise. The holidays can get us out of our routines. But exercise is a great way to keep your energy up. Just make sure not to exercise right before bed — that can actually keep you awake.
  • Make a Healthy Sleep Environment. Your bedroom should be dark, cool and quiet. And make sure to avoid electronics before bed.

The holidays don't have to be so tiring. As long as you pay attention to what you eat & drink, you can have a happy & energizing holiday season this year.

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