It's time to stop blaming the tryptophan for your post-feast snooze, says LiveScience Bad Medicine columnist Christopher Wanjek. The chemical, found in turkey, does affect sleep, but cheddar cheese is also packed with it and doesn't get the same bad rap. The real Turkey Day culprit is the "combination of booze, bad conversation, and a carbohydrate-heavy meal," he says.
Thanksgiving's classic overload of carbs releases insulin, which clears the way for tryptophan to reach the brain, produce serotonin, and affect our sleep patterns; without those mashed potatoes, other amino acids get in the way. Despite the carb-connection, we shouldn't underestimate the power of tryptophan: In the 1980s it was the active ingredient behind an in-demand sleeping aid.