After feasting on a plate of turkey on Thanksgiving, you may feel sleepy. For many of us, the couch calls to us and we fall into a turkey-induced slumber in front of the TV with our relatives.
Does this sound familiar? Are there really foods that help you sleep? Although many say that the post-turkey tiredness is a myth, there may be some truth to feeling tired after eating foods that contain the amino acid tryptophan – and turkey does.
You need tryptophan to help you sleep. Tryptophan is the precursor to melatonin – the hormone your body releases to control the body’s internal clock. Unlike melatonin, the body doesn’t produce tryptophan. Instead, tryptophan is found in several foods – not just turkey.
Tryptophan is found in nuts, seeds, tofu, cheese, red meat, chicken, fish, oats, bean, lentils, eggs, and milk. Yes, mom was right – a glass of milk before bed might be what the body needs to prepare for slumber.
Foods with tryptophan aren’t the only foods making you tired. Meals filled with carbohydrates can also make you drowsy because carbs trigger more tryptophan to the brain, according to the National Sleep Foundation. The Sleep Foundation suggests bedtime snacks that contain both carbohydrates and a protein, like cheese and crackers or peanut butter toast, to produce the proper amount of carbohydrates and tryptophan.
Other foods can induce slumber, too. Cherries are one of the only natural foods to contain melatonin and are a great bedtime snack. One study found that drinking tart cherry juice made small improvements in sleep in adults. According to Health magazine, jasmine rice, cereal, bananas, sweet potatoes could help sleep.
If you’re a night owl, you’ll probably crave ice cream and potato chips late at night. But, avoid fatty and sugary foods, since these foods will jolt the body awake. More importantly, don’t skip meals. Your body might be making up for those lost calories at the fridge at 10 p.m. keeping you awake.
Tryptophan, like melatonin, is also sold as a dietary supplement. Talk to your doctor before adding this supplement to your daily regimen.