For years turkey has been touted the ideal bedtime snack because it induces sleepiness. In 2009 I learned that this could all be a myth.
Turkey like all meat is full of a variety of amino acids. Tryptophan is just one of those amino acids. In theory tryptophan should induce sleep because it is a precursor to hormones demonstrated to aid the onset of sleep.
Our bodies use tryptophan to manufacture serotonin. Serotonin is a known relaxant. In fruit flies it causes a somnolent effect similar to human deep sleep. In addition to serotonin, tryptophan is a precursor to melatonin. Melatonin is our body’s natural sleep aid.
Unfortunately there is little to no evidence that tryptophan from eating turkey meat helps us sleep better. Perhaps sleepiness is due to another amino acid or a protein yet to be identified. It is impossible to eat meat and only eat tryptophan.
A few years ago I met a researcher who worked as a consultant to the poultry industry. Turns out turkeys know when they are headed to the dinner table. The birds become agitated and refuse to be corralled into vehicles for transport to processing. The researcher suggested the farmer medicate the birds with a tranquilizer. And with a twinkle in his eye, he, and now I, knew the secret as to why turkey meat induces sleep in humans. And now you know too.