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September 29, 2020

Why Does Tryptophan Make You Sleepy?

Ever get tired after a thanksgiving meal and hear it was caused by the tryptophan in the turkey? We did, and we wanted to look into what tryptophan is and why it makes us feel oh so sleepy. While there may be other factors at play for your thanksgiving naps, there is some truth to tryptophan making you feel ready for sleep. Stick around to find out what tryptophan is, how it effects your sleep, as well as what foods it is commonly found in.

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tryptophan and sleep

What is Tryptophan?

what is tryptophanTryptophan is an essential amino acid. Which means it is an amino acid that the body cannot create or synthesis itself to the amount in which our system needs it in order to function properly. It is a precursor to serotonin, melatonin, and niacin. Because of this, without tryptophan it can be difficult to regulate your mood and get to sleep.

There are two different types of tryptophan, L-tryptophan and D-tryptophan. However, don’t get too tripped up by this. It  turns out that L-tryptophan and D-tryptophan react the same way in the body they are simply called different things depending on the orientation of the molecules.

Learn more about foods that are great for sleep in our post: Best And Worst Foods Before Bed

Does Tryptophan Make You Feel Sleepy?

can eating turkey make you tired?The essential amino acid tryptophan is needed for the body to be able to properly produce it’s own melatonin. If you are not familiar, melatonin is a hormone that the body produces in order to induce sleep. While it is needed in order to produce melatonin, eating a food high in tryptophan does not typically induce a sleep coma.

Think of tryptophan as a building block that your body uses to create melatonin. However, your body does not release melatonin simply because you ate something high in tryptophan. Your body will still choose to produce melatonin to induce sleep whenever your circadian rhythm kicks in.

When it comes to the old thought process of thanksgiving turkey putting you to sleep, we highly believe the early mornings, stress, time with family, and large amount of mashed potatoes, stuffing, and pie might also have something to do with your food coma. Or else every time we ate a turkey sandwich or roast chicken we would be needing a long nap.

In short, does tryptophan make you feel sleepy? Technically no, however it does aid in creating melatonin which is the hormone that your body produces in order to induce sleep. So if you look at it that way then, yes it can help to make you feel tired.

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What are some Foods High in Tryptophan?

foods that are high in tryptophanOne thing you may note is that many of the foods that are known for being high in tryptophan are also high in protein.

Which is why if you’re after a diet that is high in tryptophan, then lean toward foods that are high in protein.

In order to process tryptophan be sure to have a diet that is rich in b vitamins as well. This provides building blocks to keeping everything functioning properly.

Foods High In Tryptophan:
  • tryptophan and sleepchicken
  • turkey
  • milk
  • eggs
  • cheese
  • fish
  • bananas
  • oats
  • peanuts
  • pumpkin seeds
  • sesame seeds
  • tofu and soy
  • chocolate

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Tryptophan & Your Circadian Rhythm:

the food your eat and your circadian rhythmWe touched on this earlier, however your circadian rhythm is your bodies natural sleep and wake pattern. It helps to  regulate when you fall asleep and when you wake up. The hormone used to induce sleep is melatonin.

While you can take melatonin supplements, your body usually creates it naturally whenever your circadian rhythm signals that it is time to sleep. In order for your body to create melatonin itself, it needs a good amount of tryptophan which comes from your diet.

Which means if your diet is low in tryptophan and b-vitamins, then your body will not be able to produce melatonin properly. This can lead to difficulty falling asleep naturally as well as bouts of insomnia.

Tryptophan and Sleep – Final Thoughts:

In order for your body to induce sleep with melatonin, it needs a healthy amount of tryptophan coming from your diet. This is because the body cannot produce it’s own tryptophan in large enough quantities.

Which is why if you are wanting a happy and healthy circadian rhythm that helps you to fall asleep naturally, then it is important to have a healthy balanced diet that is rich in tryptophan. We hope all of this information helps to shed some light on what makes tryptophan helpful for getting to sleep.

tryptofan and sleep

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