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The Thanksgiving nap

As Thanksgiving Day quickly approaches, I find myself preparing for one of my semiannual naps. I’ve always told people that I rarely nap, as when I shut my eyes to sleep, I shut them to sleep all night. My mom even says that she constantly struggled to get me to nap as a child, and frankly, who could blame her? Whenever I wake up from a nap I can hardly remember what day it is, and I feel groggy and perhaps even sleepier than when I started. As a result, naps are saved for those two, maybe three times a year in which I just can’t keep my eyes open. Thanksgiving is one of those times.

“Turkey Day” has always been one of my favorite holidays. It is so enjoyable to gather ‘round the table with loved ones to say what we are thankful for, express gratitude for what life has given us, and of course eat mounds and mounds of delicious food. Thanksgiving dinner, which my family tends to have in the late afternoon because we just can’t wait any longer, is something that I look forward to year-round. And don’t even get me started on my passion for leftovers.

The family, the fun and being stuffed to the brim with good food never fails to send me off to sleep. However, if you’ve ever heard that widely-spread rumor that it’s turkey that causes people to grow sleepy on Thanksgiving Day, you may be surprised to learn that it’s the other dishes that may be doing you in.

According to livescience.com, the myth that turkey makes you sleepy was sparked by the fact that turkey contains tryptophan, an amino acid and a component of the brain chemical serotonin, which the body converts into the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin.

Be that as it may, turkey contains no higher amounts of tryptophan than other forms of poultry. In fact, it’s probably the carb-heavy side dishes and alcohols that holiday-goers consume that causes a rise in sleepiness. Cheddar cheese, which many of you may use in your mac n’ cheese, contains more tryptophan gram for gram than that big bird.

Medical experts cite that high-carb foods like potatoes, stuffing (my favorite) and marshmallow-coated yams trigger a release of insulin in our bodies, which removes many amino acids from our blood, but not tryptophan. A lack of competing amino acids allows tryptophan to enter the brain easily to form serotonin and, eventually, melatonin.

So, there you have it. If you’re like me and feel that you just have to nap after your Thanksgiving meal, blame the side dishes and not your turkey. A happy Thanksgiving and peaceful sleep to you all. Wake me up in 30 minutes so that I can reheat some leftovers.

ALEXA MASSEY is a staff reporter for The Farmville Herald and Farmville Newsmedia LLC. Her email address is Alexa.Massey@FarmvilleHerald.com.