As you belly up to the table tomorrow to indulge in all that makes up your Thanksgiving Day meal, it's a pretty good guess turkey will be involved. You might be talking about the recent deer you shot, or how the pheasants were plentiful this year. Of course, football will be talked about at some point in the day. If you find a pause in the conversation, you could always talk about turkey.

I overheard a recent conversation wondering how much turkey it would take to put you to sleep. After the question was popped, I started to wonder about it as well.

The Better Sleep Council covered all the bases on this subject.

What is tryptophan?

An important amino acid that the body uses as a building block for protein is tryptophan. There are 20 recognized amino acids; nine of them—including tryptophan—cannot be produced by the body and are therefore regarded as "essential" amino acids that must be obtained through diet. Tryptophan is used by our bodies to produce serotonin and melatonin. While serotonin can assist control of appetite, sleep, mood, and pain, melatonin aids in the regulation of the sleep-wake cycle. Niacin, or vitamin B3, is another substance that the liver may make using tryptophan. Niacin is required for DNA synthesis and energy metabolism.

How much turkey should I eat to get sleepy?

According to the Better Sleep CouncilTryptophan is the least abundant of the numerous amino acids found in turkey meat. These amino acids fight for spots on the same specialized protein transporters that carry them to the brain, much like rush-hour riders on the NYC subway. Therefore, tryptophan seldom gets a seat ahead of its competitors given its small representation within the group. Hence, even while consuming Thanksgiving turkey may cause your body to absorb more tryptophan than usual, very little of it reaches your brain to aid in the production of hormones linked to sleep, such as melatonin.

So, even though tryptophan has long been linked to promoting sleep, approximately 12 grams is required to produce profound drowsiness. Eating 8.6 pounds of turkey—nearly the whole bird in one sitting—would be necessary to obtain this much from turkey alone. That's a lot of turkey!

Talk about this at your meal tomorrow, and you just might sound like the smartest person at the table. Happy Thanksgiving!

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