Most of us have had late night cravings before bed, but is there a relationship between the food we eat before bed and the dreams we have while sleeping? The ingredients in different types of food can impact your dreams differently.
While you are sleeping your brain is highly active. The peak activity of the brain happens during the Rapid Eye Movement, or REM phase. The activity of the brain is directly impacted by the digestion of food. There are many causes of people’s dreams other than the food eaten including genetics, tolerance for certain foods, and the amount of food consumed before sleep also influence the type of dream someone will have.
In one study done by The New York Times on men, participants were told to eat spicy foods before bed on some nights and mild food on the other nights. It was found that, they took longer to actually fall asleep, but once asleep they were in a deeper sleep, therefore not dreaming, after eating the spicier foods. Eating foods that are spicy cause problems with digestion, which makes it harder to fall asleep because of being uncomfortable. This study was only done on men, so it is unknown if females would experience the same results as the men or if they would differ between gender.
Cheese, as well as other dairy products, were also found to be better at enhancing dreams in a study done by the British Cheese Board. The study found that, “the sharper the cheese, the sharper the dreams”. Among the cheeses in the study, Blue cheese was found to cause the most outrageous dreams among the 200 participants of the study.
There are also supplements like Vitamin B6 which is supposed to help you experience more vivid dreams. There are no foods that have naturally high amounts of B6, but there are supplements available. During a double-blind experiment, people who took a “daily 250mg B6 supplement reported a significant increase in dream content – as measured in dream vividness, bizarreness, emotionality and color.”
While there are foods that increase dream activity, there are also foods that decrease dreaming like alcohol. Drinking alcohol before bed prevents your body from entering a deep sleep and therefore not entering the dreaming stage, or the REM stage.
How long before bed you are eating is also a factor of the quality of dreams you will experience. One experiment done at Brighton Town University placed both men and women in a house and put them on the same steady diet for a total of eight week. During these eight weeks, the men and women were told to eat foods such as candy and ice cream one half hour before sleeping. Participants were hooked up to a machine that tracked their dreams and about 70% had nightmares. From this study, researchers have found that sleeping while full can cause nightmares to occur. On the other hand, going to bed hungry can also cause nightmares because it causes an adrenaline rush which is then also present in your current dream.
There are many other factors other than the food you eat or how long before sleeping you eat them that affect your dreams. Although there are other causes, food can have a large impact on the dreams you experience and the quality of sleep you can get at night.