We’re all partial to a bit of cheese (the food, not the chat up lines) and with over 1778 varieties to choose from, cheese is usually a food we eat every day. Rightly or wrongly, cheese is synonymous with nightmares (sorry cheese!). But is there any truth behind this myth? Does eating cheese at night cause nightmares? We’re here to debunk this myth and explore whether cheese really is the dreaded bringer of bad dreams it is reputed to be.
An article exploring the correlates and treatments of nightmares in adults, found that, although they are experienced less frequently the older we get, nightmares have no age limit (a staggering 85% of adults report to have had at least one nightmare in the previous year!).
Cheese and Nightmares
To begin our investigation, it’s only right that we start at the beginning. The first cheese and dreams study of its time was conducted by the British Cheese Board and was entitled ‘sweet dreams are made of cheese’ (and who are we to disa-brie?). This investigation took place in 2005 and involved 200 volunteers eating 20g of cheese every night half an hour before going to sleep. At the end of the week, 72% of the participants reported sleeping well every night, 67% remembered dreaming and 0% recalled having a nightmare. In fact, contrary to the old wives tale, further reports from this study found that different types of cheese induced different types of dreams (not nightmares). So, if you’re dying to dream about your favourite celebrity, try some Cheddar, if you want to reminisce back to your schooldays, Red Leicester is the cheese for you and if you’re partial to an unusual and wacky dream, chow down on some Stilton.
Although the British Cheese Board’s study goes some way to help settle our cheesey nightmare fears, others argue that the evidence is inconclusive due to fundamental floors in how the investigation was conducted: there was no control group and the British Cheese Board would, of course, show a bias towards reporting positive results. So, if we’re unsure whether cheese is the culprit, what else could be causing us to have nightmares?
What Else Could Cause Nightmares?
🌟 Eating before Bed
We’ve all no doubt been subject to a food-induced nap, that feeling when you’re so full and relaxed after a meal that you slowly just drift off to sleep. Well, unfortunately for us, Sleep.org reveals that sleeping too soon after a heavy meal can lead to nightmares (best reschedule that late night pizza!). Sleeping on a full stomach encourages nightmares by increasing the metabolism and in turn, making the brain more active.
🌟 Stress and Anxiety
According to Psychology Today, in 60% of cases, stress is the predominant cause of nightmares. Stress and anxiety can come in several different forms: a major life event, the fear of failure and moving house to name but a few. If you think that stress may be causing you to have nightmares, check out our simple stress relief techniques for a better sleep.
Some medications, such as antidepressants and those taken to regulate blood pressure, are thought to cause nightmares by altering the chemicals in the brain. For more information about medications linked to nightmares, read Medical Daily’s article, ‘5 types of medication known to cause insomnia and nightmares: are prescription drugs ruining your sleep pattern?’.
Studies have found that those diagnosed with severe levels of depression are more susceptible to nightmares, with around a third of sufferers reporting frequent nightmares.
🌟 Sleeping Environment
The comfort, temperature and even the scent of a room can influence whether we have good or bad dreams.
Temperature: According to the National Sleep Foundation, the optimal bedroom temperature is around 65℉ (18℃). If the temperature in the room deviates too far from this ideal, it can cause sleep disturbances, waking you up and making it easier for you to remember your dream/nightmare.
Scent: A German study conducted by Boris Stuck found that ‘sweet smells make for sweet dreams’. In this study, volunteers were exposed to scented bursts of either roses or rotten eggs. According to the results, those who had smelled the roses had positive dreams while those who smelled the rotten eggs had poor dreams.
Comfort: How comfortable you feel while asleep can have a real impact on whether you have good or bad dreams. Similar to temperature, the less comfortable you are, the more likely it is that you will wake up throughout the night and remember your dream/nightmare.
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