Rest is a challenge during the Thanksgiving season. You have projects to finish at work. There are errands to run, relatives to visit and football games to watch. You never seem to have enough time in the day. As a result, sleep is often left on the back burner. You should be getting between seven and eight hours of sleep a night, according to experts. Anything less, and you are putting your health at risk.

The other challenge is getting tired after eating a Thanksgiving meal. But what causes someone to get tired after stuffing themselves on turkey, cranberry sauce, potatoes and bread? The answer is L-tryptophan.

What is L-tryptophan?

It is an essential amino acid but not something that the body produces naturally. You must rely on diet to provide you with enough of the amino acid, which is a basic building block for protein. Foods such as cheese, fish, yogurt, eggs and yes turkey contain tryptophan.

The body takes L-tryptophan, and creates a B-vitamin called niacin. Niacin helps with digestion, skin and the production of serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical and sends signals to the brain. It plays an important role in mood, appetite, and sleep. Serotonin can either causes us to be stimulated or relaxed. Low levels of serotonin are thought be associated with depression, and drugs that treat depression are designed to increase serotonin levels. In the case of turkey, serotonin it’s used to make melatonin, a major chemical in the sleep process. The body doesn’t produce melatonin during daylight hours, but as the sun goes down, the body begins to produces more melatonin, preparing us for a night of sleep. Turkey increases the body’s production of melatonin, and your body thinks it time to go to bed. Some have argued that the levels of tryptophan in turkey do not make you sleepy, but you know that’s not the case. You curl up on the coach and take a nap every year after a giant Thanksgiving meal.

Holiday safety

Traveling during Thanksgiving can also be difficult. AAA predicts about 50.9 million Americans will travel by car, plane and rail over the Thanksgiving weekend this year, the highest number since 2005.  (http://newsroom.aaa.com/category/travel/) Of those millions of travelers, around 89% are expected to travel by car.

You are likely to be in congested traffic during a holiday trip, and that means you need to be alert and paying attention. Drivers in front of you can stop quickly or the person next to you can change lanes without looking.  It can be dangerous. That means you need to get enough sleep before traveling. You have to be sharp so you can arrive safely to your destination.

Here are a few safety tips for the holidays

  • If you are going to participate in Black Friday, get enough rest.
  • Give yourself enough time to drive to friend’s or relative’s for Thanksgiving.
  • Pack an emergency kit in the car.
  • Make sure someone is aware of your travel plans
  • Make sure the turkey cooks to 165 degrees.
  • Wash your hands before eating.
  • When using a fireplace, make sure it’s separated by a glass or grate.
  • Unplug appliances when they are not in use.

Be safe, eat a lot of turkey, enjoy your family and friends – and get some rest! Happy Holidays from everyone at Somnology… ~ Patrick Yam – CEO

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