Sweet Dreams

Since starting college, I have eaten meals at very unconventional times due to activities and rigorous class work. I remember hearing from someone that it is not a good idea to eat after 8 o’clock at night, which is often something I am forced to do. A few weeks ago I had to power through late night studying so I grabbed a snack to keep me going. That night I had a nightmare. For whatever reason I thought back to what I did before I went to bed. I asked myself if I saw a scary advertisement being that halloween is around the corner, but I did not remember seeing one. I recalled eating some cookies way after 8 p.m., which was apparently a bad thing to do.  I wondered what the mechanism was behind me getting a nightmare, and if it possibly could have involved eating the ice cream. Does eating sugary foods, like cookies, before bed cause nightmares?



After browsing the internet and looking at various websites, I came across a study conducted by the University of Montreal. The study was called, Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend: food and diet as instigators of bizarre and disturbing dreams (2015)”. I found this study appropriate and credible because it came from a university and was conducted within the past year. The study consisted of 382 undergraduate students—126 males and 255 females and 1 person whose gender was unspecified. I took notice that there was a much larger portion in females who participated and wondered if this could affect the end results of the study. Andrew talked about the importance of giving consent to scientists or a study, specifically in cancer trials. It is important to note that all participants in this study gave their consent, as well as it being approved by the University’s Ethics Board.

The way the study worked was by giving each participant various online surveys that they each had to complete based on topics concerning their diet, sleep quality, and dream characteristics. The results of all the surveys combined concluded that, 68 of 382 or 17.8% participants said that eating specific foods did have a direct affect on their dreams. 11.5% claimed that eating late at night affected their dreams. These numbers are much lower than I expected them to be, could it be because there was more females in the study than males? If the study had used a larger group of participants, 


As you can see from the above picture, each pie chart’s highest percentage of food that contributes to a disturbing or bizarre dream comes from diary. Sugar is the second highest contributor at 12.5% for disturbing dreams and 30.8% for bizarre dreams. Neither percentage helps to support or confirm my hypothesis. Something that could be taken into consideration for comparing each pie chart is the definition of what exactly the study considers a disturbing or  bizarre dream to be. The information may be more easily understood if the University of Montreal provided the definitions for each category.

This study done by the University of Montreal helped me to accept the null hypothesis, the numbers from the study were too low for me to clearly see if there was a relationship between sugary foods and nightmares. Looking back at it now, it must have been by chance that when I ate cookies before bed, I got a nightmare. 


Nielson, Tore, and Russell A. Powell. Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend: Food and Diet as Instigators of Bizarre and Disturbing Dreams (2015). Rep. N.p., Feb. 2015. Web. 15 Oct. 2016.


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3 thoughts on “Sweet Dreams

  1. Maximilian Arthur Kesner

    This was a very well written post. My only advice is that it might be helpful to have more than one source to add more depth to your post. I did appreciate how you showed that the study you used was a credible source of information. I can relate to your post because I don’t think I have eaten a dinner at a normal time in the last two months I’ve been to college. I often find myself snacking late at night. I personally can’t recall a time where I ate late at night and then had a nightmare as a consequence, which is consistent with the null hypothesis. To make late night snacking seem bad again, this article explains how it can lead to weight gain. That’s just another reason to not eat late at night.

  2. Xueyao Cao

    I really enjoyed reading this blog!! Topics about dreams always attracts my attention. When I was a kid, I was always bothered by nightmares, so I started to seek for a pattern in order to avoid them. I found out that most of the dreams could be connected to something specific that triggers my unconsciousness the day before, which means that something I thought about the day before might became a key or an element to my dreams. Anyway, that’s only my personal experience and it might be an anecdote. I haven’t thought about if there are any correlations between eating and dreams before. The study you talked about in you blog was basically an observational study. It is hard to manipulate the possible third variables that might have occur in this study, and the level of self-record process might be different. So I think if researchers tried to set up an experimental condition, it would help to figure out how strong the correlation is between the two elements. I’m not really sure if it’s possible to set up experiments for dreams, since it is a very obscure object to think about, but as the number of studies increased on this the related field of study. More convincing result would be produced.

  3. Jessica Heckler

    I love trying to figure out why I dream what I dream! This blog post is very interesting, although I don’t think sweets could cause nightmares or I would be having nightmares almost every night. I always used to be an ice cream before bed kind of person (I know its really unhealthy. It was a bad habit.) and I very rarely experienced nightmares. I know I should not be drawing conclusions solely based on my own observations because this is just an anecdote, but I don’t think there is enough scientific evidence to suggest anything else.
    Perhaps this is just an old wives tale that mothers would tell their children to scare them away from eating sweets late at night that would keep them up! Unless the sugar somehow affects the areas of the brain that has to do with dreaming then I doubt eating sugars late at night could produce nightmares. One way to test this would be to conduct an experiment and watch the brain activity of a person while sleeping without eating sugar before bed and then the next night watching the brain activity of the same person while sleeping after eating sugar before bed. This would have to be done with many people in order to draw any conclusions and is not set up like most randomized experiments, but I don’t think you should be comparing two different people because their brains could just work a little bit differently. There really should be a baseline of the person compared to the differences seen when eating sugar before bed.

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