Rethink your midnight snack

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.

4 thoughts on “Rethink your midnight snack

  1. mkj5157

    I never heard of this! For a period of time I was drinking apple juice before going to bed and I’m wondering if that’s the reason why I had terrifying, horror-movie inspired dreams during that time! Is insomnia effected by the foods you also wake up to?

  2. Courtney Taylor

    Really interesting post! I rarely have dreams (at least not that I can remember) but I snack at night almost routinely. I did some research and it sounds like my most common snack (popcorn) should stimulate dreams… I guess I’ll keep it up and see if I notice an increase in my dreams then!

  3. Amber Kay Shojaie

    I definitely crave food right before bed as I’m sure many other people do as well. It is interesting to know that different ingredients in different foods can impact your dreams. While this is a very interesting topic, I couldn’t help but wonder if it is even okay for us to be eating right before bed. Here you will find why eating before bed in general is bad for you. The main reasons eating before bed is not ideal are: heartburn, overeating and weight-gain, insomnia, and asthma complications.

  4. Caitlyn Elizabeth Davis

    When I read your blog, it really interested me. I never thought what I was snacking on could affect my dreams. Personally, I have acid reflux so eating spicy foods for dinner and then trying to fall asleep is not fun. After reading this , I was wondering if there were certain foods which would put me to sleep easier than others, or make me more tired. In this article, I found out that bananas, white bread, red meat, cherries, sweets, and coffee help you fall asleep.

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