Once my friend told me that eating an apple before bed makes you have really weird and vivid dreams. I didn’t know if I believed her so I tried myself and that night I didn’t have a dream at all, or at least I didn’t remember the next morning. So now I pose the question, can certain foods cause one to have vivid dreams?
First I decided to see if this idea is even true. When researching this, I came upon a study that the British Cheese Board did in 2005; this study was about how different cheeses can give someone different types of dreams. They did this study because of the common myth at the time saying that cheese gives you nightmares. To give you a summary of this study, 200 people (100 male and 100 female) volunteered to participate in a week-long study where “72% slept well every night, 67% remembered their dreams and none recorded experiencing nightmares after eating a 20g piece of cheese half an hour before going to sleep.” Dr. Judith Bryans a Nutrition Scientist at The Dairy Council disproves the myth that cheese gives us nightmares by stating, “ One of the amino acids in cheese – tryptophan – has been shown to reduce stress and induce sleep so cheese may actually help you have a good night’s sleep”. Clearly proving that is scientifically impossible for one to say the cause of nightmares is because of the cheese they ate the night before, and even saying that cheese can actually aid one’s sleep. This study went even further to show some similarities between the content of the dream and what type of cheese they ate before sleeping. Of those who ate Stilton cheese 85% reported to have very unusual dreams, cheddar cheese led to 65% to report about have dreaming about celebrities, where as Red Leicester cheese had over 65% have dreams about their childhood. British Brie cheese made all 100 female participants to have relaxing dreams and the majority of the men had cryptic dreams. Lancashire cheese led two thirds to dream about work and more than 50% of those who ate Cheshire had a dreamless sleep. (source of all the results)
Other studies and surveys have been done since the British Cheese Board, one survey included first year Canadian University students if they thought food influences their dreams and if so what foods. Of those who believed that food does indeed influence dreams in a negative aspect (disturbing dreams), 39% included dairy products (cheese, milk, ice cream), 19% were spicy foods, and sweet foods were split 27% believing it causes bizarre dreams rather than the 13% who thought it causes disturbing dreams.
As Dr. Bryans stated before, cheese has high levels of tryptophan, which actually aids one to fall asleep and causes more vivid dreams. Therefore foods with high levels of tryptophan as well as vitamin B6 (In 2002, a double-blind study revealed that participants who took a daily 250mg B6 supplement reported a significant increase in dream content – as measured in dream vividness, bizarreness, emotionality and color) will cause one to have more intense vivid dreams and also aid in recall of those dreams. Foods that fit in that category include chicken, soybeans, turkey, tuna, venison, lamb, salmon, halibut, shrimp and cod. All these foods all give 0.29-0.41g of tryptophan on average. Therefore yes some foods can influence one’s dreams however the amount of tryptophan in those foods is the deciding factor on how much they affect one’s dreams.