Does Eating Cheese Before Bed Give You Nightmares?

5 Min Read | By Laura Barns

Last Modified 13 February 2024   First Added 28 October 2014

This article was written and reviewed in line with our editorial policy.

You’ve likely heard the old wives’ tale about cheese fuelling nightmares or even just increasing your chances of bizarre and vivid dreams. As it’s a topic that has intrigued most cheese connoisseurs and sleep specialists like us, we’ve uncovered whether cheese really does give you nightmares or whether you should add it to your midnight snack rotation…

Does cheese give you nightmares?

There’s no conclusive evidence to show that eating cheese influences your dreams, whether good or bad. However, in 2005, The British Cheese Board carried out a study in which several people were given a 3-ounce (about 20g) piece of cheese to eat just before bedtime.

Different people were given various types of cheese, and a report was then taken to record the participants’ dreams and nightmares to help detect any patterns.

Overall, the good news for the Cheese Board was that 75% of the participants said they slept pretty well each night, with no nightmares. Additionally, most participants said that they could clearly remember their dreams.

This led to the conclusion that the essential amino acid in milk (and therefore, cheese) called tryptophan affected cheese eaters by stabilising their sleep patterns and reducing stress levels.

So, research seems clear, cheese doesn’t give you nightmares! What it does seem to do, though, is produce a whole variety of different dreams that all seem to be fairly memorable. This means if you’re one of those people who like to dream and want to dream more often, then cheese for supper might do the trick.

How cheese can affect your dreams

Now we have established eating cheese before bed won’t give you nightmares, let’s discuss what it will do. Strangely enough, different cheeses eaten in the study resulted in different types of dreams. However, if you don’t like the idea of dreaming about Coronation Street or going to work, there are some cheeses you may be avoiding!

  • Cheddar cheese tended to produce dreams about celebrities, including sitting in a pub with Katie Price and playing football with Paul Gascoigne. Cast members from popular soaps like Coronation Street and Emmerdale also made appearances in cheddar-induced dreams.
  • Red Leicester caused nostalgic dreams often related to childhood.
  • Lancashire cheese produced dreams about work, which could arguably be termed a nightmare for some people.
  • Stilton cheese produced the most vivid, unusual and downright strange dreams. These included talking soft toys, lifts that move sideways, and soldiers fighting each other with kittens instead of guns. Not nightmares, but certainly very off-the-wall! Perhaps a great choice if you work in a creative environment and require some story fuel?
  • Of all the cheeses eaten, Cheshire cheese led to the most peaceful night’s sleep without any dreams at all. So, if no interruptions or crazy visuals during your sleep is key, this is the cheese for you.

How reliable are these findings?

Neil Stanley, PhD director of sleep research at the University of Surrey, said in the initial press release:

The cheese and dream study is the first study of its kind and suggests that eating cheese before you go to bed may actually aid a good night’s sleep.

However, it seems fairly obvious that a company called the British Cheese Board is likely to publish biased information that is in favour of cheese. So, are there any scientific facts that could back their findings up?

How can cheese help you sleep?

Cheese contains tryptophan, an amino acid that is required for growing, and helping your body produce and maintain proteins, muscles, enzymes, and neurotransmitters. So, what’s this got to do with sleep?

Well, tryptophan is used by your body to produce serotonin, (the hormone that makes you feel happy) which has a significant impact on sleep. A study found that “tryptophan-enriched cereal intake improves nocturnal sleep, melatonin, serotonin, and total antioxidant capacity levels and mood in humans”.

Dr Judith Bryans, Nutrition Scientist at The Dairy Council, stated:

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.

On top of this, cheese is high in B vitamins. Vitamin B6 can also improve your quality of sleep and apparently leads to vivid dreams. Dr Lisa Medalie also explains that vitamin B6 increases the level of serotonin in your body, which will cause your dreams to be more vivid and improve your memory, helping you remember your dreams.

So, there may be more work to do to conclusively link cheese to good sleep, but if you’re struggling, then maybe ending your evening with some cheese can be the key for you…

Which cheese is best to eat before bed?

We’ve already explored the possible effects that different cheeses have on your dreams, but what kind will help you nod off?

Exercise caution if you’re considering testing the theory that eating cheese before bed enhances dreams. Cheese is rich in fat, which is the slowest macronutrient to digest. Consequently, while your mind may be ready to drift into dreamland, your body might still be working hard to digest the cheese, potentially disrupting your sleep

We recommend opting for a low-fat cheese. Reduced-fat mozzarella or cottage cheese is always popular and can help you avoid discomfort overnight.

Bad dreams? Don't blame the cheese...

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