Nearly every one of us is guilty of having done it, indulged in heavy consumption of turkey meat and other foods at the celebratory Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. And without a doubt, as a result of that heavy feast, drowsiness ensues. Is there some kind of connection between turkey meat and drowsiness? Turkey does contain high levels of tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid. It is also the activator that jump start the body’s production of serotonin, the neurotransmitter that regulates our body’s sleep appetite.
Serotonin, the key neurotransmitter of sleep biology, controls our states of consciousness as well as our mood and sensitivity to pain. It effects the body’s temperature change, which in turn affect its sleep-wake cycle. Serotonin formulates and is stored its self in the brain while we sleep, where it remains dormant. When activated it makes us drowsy and want to sleep. Tryptophan is its catalysts.
Tryptophan is an everyday component of most dietary proteins. It is especially bountiful in chickpeas, chocolate, cottage cheese, durians, dried dates, eggs, fish, mangoes, milk, oats, peanuts, poultry, pumpkin seeds, red meat, sesame, sunflower seeds, spirulina and yogurt. Oh yes, we must not forget, it is also found in turkey also.
Unfortunately consuming tryptophan rich foods does not mean it will go directly to your brain. Amino acids compete against one another to get into the brain. Sadly, Tryptophan often loses. We will take milk as an example. It is loaded with tryptophan. When it is drunk, the large number of other amino acids it contain, that are also battling to enter the brain, crowd tryptophan out, reducing the amount that actually make it to the brain.
Another way to improve sleep and boost serotonin production in the brain is to eat non-tryptophan containing carbohydrates a few hours before bedtime. Carbohydrates release insulin, the hormone that reduces all amino acids in the blood except tryptophan. Tryptophan will continue to be the catalysis, however, the method of producing it has changed. Since insulin reduces all of the other amino acids except tryptophan in the blood, that means a higher concentration of it will be present in the blood that flows to the brain.
A synthesized tryptophan was available in the U.S. for a while during the late 1980’s; however the Food and Drug Administration removed it from the market for further review. Naturally acquired tryptophan is preferable over supplementation by most. When acquiring tryptophan naturally you will notice that eating tryptophan containing foods will provide a mildly sedate effect for approximately an hour or so. The sedation affect from consuming non-tryptophan containing carbohydrates last much longer, usually up to three hours.
Do you want to improve your nightly sleep? Choose one of these methods that will work best for you, but definitely do choose one. Why? Because they both works!
Resource: 67 Ways to Good Sleep – by Cynthia K. Moran and Charles Inlander