Cheese is a dairy product that is loved by millions around the world. It is a versatile ingredient that can be used in a wide variety of dishes, ranging from pizza to pasta. However, over the years, there have been rumors that consuming cheese before bedtime can cause nightmares. This has led to many people avoiding cheese altogether or restricting its intake. But is there any truth to this claim? In this article, we will explore the curious connection between cheese and nightmares and provide you with valuable insights.
The Origin of the Claim
The belief that consuming cheese before bedtime can lead to nightmares has been around for centuries. It is said to have originated from ancient folklore that suggested that eating certain foods before bed could influence the type of dreams you have. In particular, it was believed that eating cheese before bed could cause disturbing and vivid nightmares.
While there is no concrete evidence to support this claim, it has been perpetuated over the years by various cultural references. For instance, in Charles Dickens’ novel “A Christmas Carol,” Ebenezer Scrooge famously blames his disturbing dreams on his consumption of cheese before bedtime. Similarly, in the movie “Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit,” the titular character, Wallace, transforms into a giant were-rabbit after eating too much cheese.
The Science Behind Cheese and Nightmares
Despite the widespread belief that consuming cheese before bedtime can cause nightmares, there is little scientific evidence to support this claim. While certain foods have been linked to changes in sleep patterns, there is no direct correlation between cheese and bad dreams.
It is believed that the myth stemmed from the fact that cheese contains a substance called tryptophan, which is an amino acid that promotes the production of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is critical in regulating sleep-wake cycles and mood. However, while tryptophan can induce sleepiness, it does not necessarily lead to nightmares. In fact, many other foods, such as bananas and turkey, also contain tryptophan but are not associated with bad dreams.
The Role of Dairy in Sleep Quality
While there is no scientific evidence to support the claim that cheese causes nightmares, there is evidence to suggest that dairy products can affect sleep quality. For example, a study published in the Journal of Sleep Research found that consuming dairy products before bed can reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep and increase the duration of deep sleep. However, the study did not find any correlation between dairy intake and nightmares.
Another study published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics found that consuming a high-protein, low-carbohydrate snack before bedtime can improve sleep quality. The study included participants who consumed either a carbohydrate snack, a protein snack, or no snack at all. Those who consumed the high-protein snack experienced less wakefulness during the night and reported feeling more rested in the morning.
Other Factors That Affect Sleep Quality
While there is no direct link between cheese and nightmares, many other factors can affect sleep quality. For example, consuming caffeine or alcohol before bedtime can disrupt sleep patterns and lead to less restful sleep. Similarly, using electronic devices, such as phones or laptops, before bed can interfere with sleep by suppressing the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles.
Stress and anxiety are also major factors that can affect sleep quality. In particular, worrying about nightmares or having a fear of bad dreams can make it harder to fall asleep and cause more intense and vivid dreams. Practicing relaxation techniques before bed, such as meditation or deep breathing, can help reduce stress and improve sleep quality.
The Bottom Line
While the belief that cheese causes nightmares has been around for centuries, there is little scientific evidence to support this claim. While cheese does contain tryptophan, an amino acid that promotes sleepiness, it does not necessarily cause bad dreams. In fact, many other foods contain tryptophan but are not associated with nightmares.
While there is evidence to suggest that dairy products can improve sleep quality, many other factors can affect sleep quality. Avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bed, practicing relaxation techniques, and reducing stress and anxiety are all effective ways to improve sleep quality and reduce the likelihood of nightmares.
- DreamsCloud. (2019). Can cheese cause nightmares? [online] Available at: https://www.dreamscloud.com/en/blog/can-cheese-cause-nightmares [Accessed 17 Sep. 2021].
- NHS. (2018). How to get to sleep. [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sleep-and-tiredness/how-to-get-to-sleep/ [Accessed 17 Sep. 2021].
- St-Onge, M.-P. and Mikic, A. (2016). Effects of Diet on Sleep Quality. Advances in Nutrition, 7(5), pp.938–949.
Common Questions and Answers Related to Cheese and Nightmares
- Q: Can eating cheese before bed cause nightmares?
A: There is no direct evidence to support the claim that cheese causes nightmares. While cheese contains tryptophan, which can promote sleepiness, it does not necessarily lead to bad dreams.
- Q: Are there other foods that can cause nightmares?
A: There is no conclusive evidence to suggest that any other food causes nightmares. However, consuming caffeine or alcohol before bed can disrupt sleep patterns and lead to less restful sleep.
- Q: Do all types of cheese have the same effect on sleep quality?
A: There is no evidence to suggest that different types of cheese have different effects on sleep quality. However, some types of cheese, such as blue cheese, contain more tyramine than other types, which may affect some individuals differently.
- Q: How can I improve my sleep quality?
A: There are many ways to improve sleep quality, including reducing caffeine and alcohol intake before bed, practicing relaxation techniques, and reducing stress and anxiety.