Nightmares From Eating Before Bed?
Have you ever eaten an unusually late dinner or snack and found that you had exceptionally vivid dreams—or even nightmares? You may have wondered if it was the food that caused the dreams. While scientific evidence on the food-dream connection is modest at best, anecdotal evidence and at least one small study suggest that it may exist.
Why might food have an effect on your dreams? Any time we eat, our metabolism speeds up and our brain activity gets a boost. This can be a boon during a long workday (ever notice how a protein-rich snack will banish the 3:00pm drowsiness?), but it can work against us in the wee hours of the night. Then, our overactive brains start producing Technicolor images that can range from pleasant to terrifying.
But when it comes to dreams, what may be more important than whether food is consumed is what kind of food is consumed. A landmark 2005 study by the British Cheese Board had 200 volunteers consume two-thirds of an ounce of cheese a half-hour before bedtime. Most subjects reported sleeping very well and had good recall of their dreams. But those dreams varied depending on what type of cheese they had been given. Nigel White, secretary of the British Cheese Board, reported in an interview on National Public Radio that subjects who consumed Blue Stilton had bizarre, vivid dreams, while those who had Red Leicester cheese experienced nostalgic dreams that took them back to their pasts.
Regardless of whether science supports the food-sleep connection, browse message boards and you'll find plenty of people who swear that their evening repast can have a significant effect on whether they dream and what they dream about. "If I eat a lot of garlic for dinner I am sure to have very vivid dreams-lots of action, bright colors, music—not scary ones," one person posted. Another blamed a disturbing dream on a hearty Malaysian dinner: "A shrimp roll, a green mango salad, tender short ribs marinated in coconut milk, and skate drizzled with curry sauce and sprinkled with a mixture of dried pork and shellfish." But even the less adventurous eaters claim that a particular meal or snack does them in. One says peanut butter on toast causes problems for her. Another swears by bananas, and others blame chocolate or candy.
The bottom line? If you're bothered by your dreams, try to see if there's a pattern in your eating that's causing the problem. Or move your meals earlier to give yourself time to digest before turning in.
University of Maryland Medical Center. "Nightmares—Overview." Web. http://umm.edu/ency/article/003209.htm
British Cheese Board. "Cheese Myths." Web. http://www.britishcheese.com/facts/cheese_myths-3
National Public Radio. "Study: Eating Cheese Can Alter Your Dreams." Web. 16 September 2005. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4851485
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