Can Eating Cheese Really Give You Nightmares?
Anecdotally, dairy is a dream killer. But is there any truth to that claim?
For centuries, the belief has abounded that eating cheese can give you nightmares. So if you chow down on Brie before bed, will you find yourself dashing through some Saw-inspired haunt when you finally conk off into dreamland later?
Although this is a very common perception, there’s not much research to support that conclusion, says nutritionist Joy Dubost, R.D.
“There isn’t much investigation into specific foods and nightmares,” she says (This common supplement might be linked to bad dreams though).
But although the research may be scant, there are a few studies out there that attempt to delve into the nosh-then-nightmares question.
One of the most-cited cheese and nightmares research comes from the British Cheese Board, who funded a study back in 2005 to explore the relationship. Their findings? There was no evidence to support that dairy caused bad dreams.
But the researchers did suggest that cheese can influence your dreams in general. 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 cheese’s good name.
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—perhaps worthy of more investigation itself—higher coffee intake.
So what might be going on there? It’s possible that the perception of bad dreams after eating dairy could simply be due to disrupted sleep, the researchers say. 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.