The Great Tryptophan Lie: Eating Turkey Does Not Make You Tired

H. Armstrong Roberts/iStock via Getty Images
H. Armstrong Roberts/iStock via Getty Images

While you’re battling your cousins for the best napping spot after Thanksgiving dinner, feel free to use this as a diversion tactic: It’s a myth that eating turkey makes you tired.

It’s true that turkey contains L-Tryptophan, an amino acid involved in sleep. Your body uses it to produce a B vitamin called niacin, which generates the neurotransmitter serotonin, which yields the hormone melatonin, which helps regulate your sleeping patterns. However, plenty of other common foods contain comparable levels of tryptophan, including other poultry, meat, cheese, yogurt, fish, and eggs.

Furthermore, in order for tryptophan to produce serotonin in your brain, it first has to make it across the blood-brain barrier, which many other amino acids are also trying to do. To give tryptophan a leg up in the competition, it needs the help of carbohydrates. Registered dietitian Elizabeth Somer tells WebMD that the best way to boost serotonin is to eat a small, all-carbohydrate snack a little while after you’ve eaten something that contains tryptophan, and the carbs will help ferry the tryptophan from your bloodstream to your brain.

But Thanksgiving isn’t exactly about eating small, well-timed snacks. It’s more about heaps of potatoes, mountains of stuffing, and generous globs of gravy—and that, along with alcohol, is more likely the reason you collapse into a spectacular food coma after your meal. Overeating (especially of foods high in fat) means your body has to work extra hard to digest everything. To get the job done, it redirects blood to the digestive system, leaving little energy for anything else. And since alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, it also slows down your brain and other organs.

In short, you can still hold turkey responsible for your Thanksgiving exhaustion, but you should make sure it knows it can share the blame with the homestyle mac and cheese, spiked apple cider, and second piece of pumpkin pie.

[h/t WebMD]

The Reason Dogs Twitch in Their Sleep

Tetiana Garkusha/iStock via Getty Images
Tetiana Garkusha/iStock via Getty Images

The sight of a dog batting its tiny paws around while sleeping is irrefutably adorable, and it’s not hard to imagine that your beloved pet is dreaming of swimming, fetching a Frisbee, or bounding around the yard in pursuit of a scampering squirrel.

In truth, that’s pretty much exactly what’s going on. Dogs, like humans, dream during the REM cycle of sleep, and their twitches are responses to whatever’s happening in those dreams. Though all dogs can exhibit muscle movements while dreaming, PetMD reports that it most often affects younger and older dogs. This is because of the pons, a part of the brainstem with two “off” switches that regulate movement during the sleep cycle.

“If either or both of these ‘off’ switches is not fully developed or has grown weak due to the aging process, then the muscles are not completely turned off and during dreaming, the animal will start to move,” Stanley Coren, a neuropsychological researcher and former psychology professor at the University of British Columbia, told PetMD. “How much movement occurs depends upon how effective or ineffective these ‘off’ switches are.”

As long as your dog looks like it’s having a grand old time in its dreams, you can sit back and enjoy the show. If you think your dog might be having a nightmare, be careful about waking it up. As the American Kennel Club (AKC) explains, a dog woken abruptly from a bad dream might bite you before it realizes its distress wasn’t real.

You should, however, learn to recognize the difference between a normal dream and a seizure.

“Some [dogs] manifest dreaming with twitching, paddling, or kicks of the legs. These movements are often brief (less than 30 seconds) and intermittent,” Jerry Klein, the AKC’s chief veterinary officer, described on the AKC website. “Seizing dogs’ limbs, on the other hand, tend to be rigid and stiffer, with more violent movement.”

The seizure can also be accompanied by loss of bowel control. If that description sounds familiar, you should talk to your veterinarian.

[h/t PetMD]

The Reason Doctors Have Such Sloppy Handwriting

Rostislav_Sedlacek/iStock via Getty Images
Rostislav_Sedlacek/iStock via Getty Images

It seems counterintuitive that doctors—widely regarded as some of the smartest, most detail-oriented people out there—so often have horrible handwriting. From a patient’s standpoint, it could seem downright terrifying. If your pharmacist misinterprets your trusted physician’s chicken scratch, you could wind up with a dangerously high dosage of medicine, or even the wrong medicine altogether.

In 2006, the National Academies of Science's Institute of Medicine estimated that doctors’ sloppy handwriting was killing more than 7000 people per year, and preventable medication errors were harming around 1.5 million Americans annually. Many medical offices have since switched to electronic medical records and prescriptions, and some states have even required them to do so.

But that doesn’t tell us why doctors’ penmanship is so poor in the first place. One reason is because doctors have to write much more than we realize.

“In the medical field, if it’s not documented, it didn’t happen,” Celine Thum, medical director at ParaDocs Worldwide, told The Healthy.

If you’re the very first patient of the day, the record of your visit and any prescription slips you get might be perfectly legible. Ten hours and dozens of appointments later, however, your doctor’s hand muscles are probably pretty cramped.

The content they’re writing isn’t particularly easy to spell, either. If a doctor is jotting down glomerulonephritis, for example, they may not stop to make sure all those vowels are in the right places.

“We have so many technical terms that are impossible to write,” Thum said. “You sometimes scribble to cover the error.”

However, if a prescription looks indecipherable to you, it’s possible that your doctor is using shorthand that your pharmacist will immediately understand—like the abbreviation QD, from the Latin phrase for “one a day.”

If you’re confused about what the doctor has written on your prescription slip, you can always ask them to clarify aloud, and double-check that it matches what’s printed on your prescription bottle.

[h/t MSN]

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