The whole family is gathered around the dinner table. The smell of turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie still lingering in the air. Yet now all the food is gone leaving nothing but dirty plates and full stomachs. What comes next? Everyone goes off to their designated comfortable spots for a good long nap.
Whether it is in front of the TV to snooze and listen to a football game. Or if it in a bedroom surrounded by cousins. This is a common occurrence for families all across America on Thanksgiving Day. Which begs the question, what is it about Thanksgiving dinner that makes us all so tired?
Early Cooking Time:
Defrosting and cooking a large Thanksgiving Turkey can take a lot of time. Which can call for an early wake up call to prep and start the Turkey. Depending on how large your turkey is and what time you are preparing to eat this can call for waking up in the wee hours of the morning.
If you are head chef in the household, then you are going to be exhausted by the time everyone is doing eating. Especially if you do not have a second crew for clean up.
We suggest always taking any extra help you can. If you have nieces and nephews, a spouse, cousins, aunts or uncles that are willing to help in the kitchen, let them. Even if it won’t get done exactly how you would do it yourself, at least it is finished.
Remember that it doesn’t have to be perfect, no ones table should look like a page out of Martha Stewart magazine. That simply isn’t realistic. This is all about spending time with the family and being thankful. So be grateful for any helping hands that are willing to make things a bit easier on you.
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Lots of Socializing:
We all love our families, but that does not mean that they don’t drive us crazy. Anytime you bring a large amount of people together in one space it can be overwhelming. All the voices, running children, political debates, loud football games, arguments on what type of cranberry sauce is best… It is fun, exciting, and can be completely exhausting.
This factor also may vary from person to person. While socializing for some extroverts gives them extra energy and makes them feel topped up and ready to go. Others will feel depleted on energy and need some extra alone time in order to re-energize and be ready to go again. This can even be true if you’re having a fabulous time. You still may need some alone time in order to feel rested and ready to enjoy the rest of your time with family. After dinner breaks are great for this.
Turkey & Tryptophan:
Another common belief as to why Thanksgiving dinner makes us feel so sleepy, is due to the high tryptophan content in Turkey. If you are not already familiar, tryptophan is an amino acid that is vital for our sleep. It is used in the production of serotonin and melatonin.
Melatonin is the hormone that your brain produces in order to induce sleep. While eating a food high in tryptophan is not going to be directly sedentary, it does provide the building blocks for melatonin. Which your body can then process and use accordingly. We suspect that the main reasons why thanksgiving dinner seems to give everyone a food coma is caused by the following two sections, sugar & carbs and alcohol.
Learn more about what tryptophan does in our post: Why Does Tryptophan Make You Sleepy?
Lots of Sugar & Carbs:
It is only polite to have an overflowing plate of food at the Thanksgiving table. Not only do you want t eat the stuffing your mom made, but you have to try the stuffing your great aunt brought as well. Of course that is on top of the mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and bread rolls. Then of course comes the desserts. You can’t have thanksgiving holiday without an array of pies and other sweets.
All of these sugary sweets and carbohydrates are full of glucose. Which then spikes your blood sugar which then quickly drops. Leaving you feeling ready to snooze.
Quick energy provided by simple sugars and carbs are not long lasting. You get a quick boost of energy that dwindles just as fast. This can lead to an after dinner nap for sure.
Wine & Beer:
While alcoholic beverages tend to ruin the quality of your sleep, it can help to induce sleep. Often times along side a turkey dinner, there will be a glass of wine, beer, or some kind of alcoholic beverage.
Whether you are having a drink before during or after your meal, it may end up making you feel tired. This is because alcohol is a downer and can induce sleep, even if you have more than enough rest.
Mix the sedentary effects of alcohol with a large carb and tryptophan loaded meal and you have yourself a nap just waiting to happen. Keep in mind that while alcohol can help to induce sleep, it does not increase the quality of sleep that you have. In fact, it tends to reduce sleep quality for most people, especially if you choose to indulge in several alcoholic beverages.
Learn more about the affects of alcohol on your sleep in our post: Our Guide To Why Alcohol and Sleep Don’t Mix
Volume of Food Intake:
Digestion requires energy, this is something we all know. Whenever you eat a very large amount of food, this requires more energy than usual. Large meals can also make you feel uncomfortably full. This leads to the urge to lay back and stretch out your stomach. Which of course sets you up for the best food coma you have had in a long time. It is no secret that large meals can make you feel very tired and lead to long satisfying naps.
Thanksgiving dinner is the champion of all food comas and it is not only the types of foods you are eating. It is also the overwhelming quantity of these foods that you are eating as well.
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Why Does Thanksgiving Dinner Make You Sleepy? – Final Thoughts:
It turns out that there isn’t just one reason why Thanksgiving Dinner makes you feel tired, there are many! Whether you are falling asleep due to a food coma, the wine, cooking exhaustion, socializing, or a mixture of all of the above. Thanksgiving can be a long and overwhelming day that ends in a celebration of food family and love. If that isn’t something to be thankful for, then we don’t know what is. Either way at the end of a big turkey dinner, there is nothing quite like a good nap.