With Christmas only a few sleeps away, you’re probably looking forward to overindulging with festive food and drinks. The traditional centrepiece of Christmas Day is the big lunch or dinner, and after eating a mountainous amount of food, chances are you’re going to have a nap afterwards.
But why? Year on year, the whole family seems to fall asleep after Christmas lunch or have a longer deeper sleep that night on the best mattress (opens in new tab). The main thing that always gets blamed is the food, from the turkey to the cheese board.
If you’re interested in why you feel sleepy during Christmas or how to get a better night’s sleep to feel refreshed on Boxing Day, here are 5 foods that help you sleep better, reduce anxiety and improve brain health.
For more food and sleep tips, check out 8 foods to eat for a good night’s sleep and 4 to avoid (opens in new tab).
The first food that is guaranteed to make you feel sleepy is the roast turkey. While many people dismiss turkey’s powers as an old wives tale, there is some truth to why you feel tired after eating turkey. Turkey contains the amino acid, tryptophan which acts as a natural sleep aid by increasing the production of melatonin and serotonin. These hormones regulate your sleep cycle, mood and appetite, so by having more of it in your body from consuming turkey, you’re more likely to feel in need of a nap.
Another reason turkey can make you feel sleepy is that it’s a source of protein. Overconsuming protein or meat puts a strain on your liver and kidneys which causes them to work overtime to break down the food, which results in you feeling tired. For more turkey information, we debunked popular turkey myths in does turkey actually make you sleepy? (opens in new tab)
2. Roast potatoes
One of the biggest reasons you’ll feel tired after eating your Christmas lunch is because of the excessive amount of food you’ve eaten, specifically carbohydrates. Carbs like roast potatoes, stuffing and Yorkshire puddings will not only leave you feeling full, but they can make your blood sugar spike. This change in your blood sugar levels lead to a crash later on, which makes you feel fatigued and unfocused. When you eat carbs, your body will also release extra insulin to keep your blood sugar levels balanced which can trigger your sleep hormones.
3. Cheddar cheese
Who doesn’t love a good cheese board at Christmas? Well, it turns out the cheese board could have a lot to do with why you take a Christmas nap. Similar to turkey, dairy products like milk and cheese contain tryptophan. While some hard cheeses can make you feel more alert, cheddar cheese actually has up to 60% more tryptophan in it than turkey, according to Men’s Health (opens in new tab). And, if you’re eating cheddar cheese with a cracker, the tryptophan from the cheese and carbs from the cracker work together to leave you feeling tired.
Cranberries are one of the most popular festive fruits, mainly in cranberry sauce and as an ingredient in stuffing recipes. How cranberries aid sleep is due to its high levels of antioxidants and vitamins. Cranberries contain lots of vitamin C which can improve sleep and help those who suffer with insomnia. This tart fruit also contains melatonin which acts as a sleep hormone by regulating your sleep cycle. While it’s best to eat fresh cranberries to get these sleep benefits, dried cranberries or cranberry juice can also help you sleep better.
Nuts are a staple at many Christmas tables, as an easy to grab appetiser or an ingredient in stuffing. Tree nuts like walnuts have many health benefits, due to their levels of melatonin, zinc and magnesium which improve sleep quality. Walnuts also contain fatty acids that are rich in omega 3 which helps increase serotonin production (opens in new tab), so you should feel sleepy and happy after eating them. To get the sleep benefits from walnuts, you only need about a handful of them and they’re best consumed before bed for better sleep.