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The Aftermath of Thanksgiving Dinner: Exploring the Effects of Overeating and Turkey-induced Sleepiness

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As Thanksgiving approaches, anticipation builds for the cherished feast that brings families and friends together around the dinner table. However, the post-Thanksgiving dinner scene often involves a collective sigh as everyone reclines on the couch, overcome by a profound sense of drowsiness. Have you ever wondered why this phenomenon occurs? In this article, we delve into the effects of overeating and the mysterious sleep-inducing power of turkey during the Thanksgiving celebration.

The Culprit: Overeating

Thanksgiving is synonymous with indulgence, and many of us find it challenging to resist the temptation of heaping portions of delicious dishes. Overeating, especially when it involves consuming rich, high-calorie foods, can have a significant impact on the body and mind.

  1. Blood Flow Redistribution: When you eat a large meal, your body redirects blood flow to the digestive system to aid in the breakdown and absorption of nutrients. This shift in blood flow away from other areas of the body, including the brain, can lead to feelings of lethargy and fatigue.
  2. Insulin Spike and Blood Sugar Levels: The consumption of a large quantity of carbohydrates, often present in Thanksgiving favorites like mashed potatoes and stuffing, can lead to a rapid spike in insulin levels. This spike is followed by a subsequent drop in blood sugar levels, contributing to feelings of tiredness and sluggishness.
  3. Activation of the Parasympathetic Nervous System: Overeating triggers the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system, responsible for the "rest and digest" response. This promotes relaxation and can make you feel more inclined to take a nap or rest after a heavy meal.

The Turkey Myth: Tryptophan and Sleep

Turkey often takes the blame for the post-Thanksgiving dinner drowsiness due to its alleged high levels of tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid that serves as a precursor to serotonin and melatonin, neurotransmitters associated with relaxation and sleep regulation.

While it is true that turkey contains tryptophan, the amount present in a typical serving is not enough to induce the level of drowsiness experienced after a Thanksgiving feast. In fact, other foods on the table, such as cheese and nuts, contain similar or even higher levels of tryptophan.

The Thanksgiving Feast: Finding Balance

While indulging in a hearty Thanksgiving meal is a tradition many look forward to, finding a balance between enjoying the feast and maintaining overall well-being is key. Consider incorporating lighter and more nutritious options alongside traditional favorites to strike a balance between satisfying your taste buds and supporting your body's energy levels.


The post-Thanksgiving dinner drowsiness is a common experience, attributed to a combination of overeating and the misperception of turkey as a sleep-inducing culprit. By understanding the physiological effects of a large meal, we can make informed choices about our Thanksgiving feasts, opting for a balance that promotes both enjoyment and well-being. So, as you savor the flavors of Thanksgiving, remember to listen to your body and embrace the joy of the season without letting the post-feast lethargy take away from the holiday spirit.


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