Ever since Charles Dickens wrote about a crumb of cheese affecting Ebenezer Scrooge’s sleep in his popular book, A Christmas Carol, myths have abounded stating that eating cheese before bed can affect our dreams. In fact, there are almost as many stories about how cheese can affect dreams as there are types of cheese.
However, the interesting thing is, there has only ever been one study about cheese and dreams and it wasn’t by a sleep expert, dream expert or university department specialising in sleep disorders. The study was undertaken by, wait for it, the British Cheese Board1, in 2005. So while the research is a little cheesy, it’s also a lot of fun. And it did come to some interesting conclusions. So does cheese give you nightmares? Does cheese affect dreams? Do all the different cheeses offer different sorts of dreams? Find out by reading the summary of the British Cheese Board’s findings below.
According to British Cheese Board study, eating cheese before bed doesn’t give you nightmares. After eating a 20g piece of cheese thirty minutes before going to bed, 72% of the 200 participants had a good night’s sleep, 67% remembered their dreams, and not one of them said they experienced a nightmare. Instead, the researchers reported, they had ‘pleasant night time fantasies’.
One of the findings of this cheesy study was that different types of cheeses seemed to give participants different kinds of dreams. Around 85% of the women who ate blue Stilton before bed, reported they had crazy or whacky dreams – some of which included talking toys, an upset vegetarian crocodile and a couple of warrior kittens. Britain’s most popular cheese, Cheddar, apparently enhanced dreams about celebrities. One girl reported a dream that involved a human pyramid and Johnny Depp. Definitely not a nightmare then.
After the study, the British Cheese Board was pleased to report that eating cheese before bed actually helped people fall asleep. According to Dr Judith Bryans, a nutrition scientist at The Dairy Council explained it by stating: Cheese contains an amino acid called tryptophan, which has been shown to reduce stress and induce sleep so cheese may actually help you have a good night’s sleep2.
A couple of other popular British cheeses were munched on in the study, including Red Leicester and Lancashire. The study showed that the participants who ate the Red Leicester cheese before bed had nostalgic dreams, mainly about things that happened in their childhood or with their families. Those who nibbled at the Lancashire dreamt about work-related events, with one participant dreaming that he was the British Prime Minister, which could be considered a nightmare in some circles.
While the findings by the British Cheese Board aren’t considered conclusive, there is some evidence to show that eating a little bit of something often helps people get a better night’s sleep3. However as cheese is a dairy snack it can cause nasal congestion, which can increase the risk of snoring. A better option, apparently, is food that releases its sugar slowly into the bloodstream, like pears or apples.
So while the evidence of the study seems to have more holes in it than a good swiss, it seems there’s no proof that eating cheese before bed causes nightmares.
What we do know, is that if you eat just before you go to bed, or if you’ve over-eaten, you may suffer indigestion which might cause you to have a restless night. So perhaps you should nibble on a little bit of Cheddar just before bed, then settle back and get ready for Johnny Depp to appear! Now that’s Tasty.