For hundreds of years, one belief that has consistently been passed over the years is that eating cheese can give you nightmares, but how scientifically true is this?
A lot of folktales has aided the development and survival of this myth. Some believe that if you chow down on some cheese before going to bed, you will find yourself dashing through some horror movie inspired haunt when you finally conk off into dreamland later. But how true is this?
While this perception is a pretty common one, there isn’t much research to support the conclusion of this myth. Very little investigations have been conducted into the connection between eating specific foods and having nightmares afterwards.
But although the research may be scant, there are a few scientific studies out there that have attempted to delve into the food nightmares question.
One of the most-cited research papers comes from the British Cheese Board, which funded a study back in 2005 to explore the relationship between eating cheese before bed and having nigthmares. Their findings? There was no evidence to support that dairy caused bad dreams.
However, the researchers did suggest that cheese can influence the type of dreams you have and everything in between. The research even went so far as to point to different types of cheese and their dream output. Want to dream about celebrities? Pick cheddar, apparently.
Now, caveats abound with this research, since it was never actually published and it was funded by the British Cheese board, who may have pretty good reason to want to clear the cheese’s good name for obvious reasons.
But other research on the topic has been published. For example, a 2015 study sought to further explore the relationship between dairy and dreamland. When researchers asked 382 people whether they believed what they ate influenced their dreams, they found that 18 percent believed their food could influence their shuteye, causing disturbing or bizarre dreams.
Out of the people who said food can cause disturbing dreams, 44 percent pointed to dairy as the potential culprit.
The people who held the belief that their food could cause nightmares also reported more frequent and unsettling dreams, poorer sleep and higher coffee intake, which may itself require more investigation.
So what might be going on there? According to the researchers, It’s possible that the perception of bad dreams after eating dairy could simply be due to disrupted sleep. They call this the “food distress hypothesis,” and say it can occur with foods that trigger gastrointestinal distress.
The fact that cheese was fingered as the top culprit for disturbing dreams fits with this theory, especially since dairy can cause symptoms like gas, bloating, and cramps in people with lactose sensitivity or intolerance. And that, of course, can mess with your sleep, which can have an effect on dreams.