Take the 2-minute tour ×
Skeptics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for scientific skepticism. It's 100% free, no registration required.

In many cartoons and on Sesame Street there are many storylines where a character eats just before going to bed (usually pizza) and they end up having nightmares or very crazy vivid dreams.

Normally this ends with another character pointing out that they shouldn't have eaten just before going to bed.

Can eating (not necessarily overeating, as this is not emphasized in the above storylines) just before going to bed affect your sleep in a way that would cause you to have nightmares or vivid dreams?

share|improve this question
    
Well lately I have been eating late and ive been having very bad dreams, and not just the dreams you had when you were a little kid they are the worst dreams ive ever had. I have woke up many times of the night with night sweats and one night I woke up in tears. I am only 14 so I dont really know what is going on with me right now. I have had a few friends that recently told me that it was because I eat late at night but im not sure that is really the problem. If anyone can give me some answers that would be really great. –  user3870 Jun 30 '11 at 2:18
6  
@Kiley, that sounds awful. It's probably just "night terrors", which you may grow out of, and may be helped by an earlier and regular bed-time. However, my best advice is to not ask your friends or search the web for advice, but instead tell your parents and ask to chat to a family doctor. They will be able to ask the right questions, and give you better, personal advice. Looking on the web will just convince you that you have tropical brain cancer of the feet, or some such. –  Oddthinking Jul 6 '11 at 12:24
1  
The most memorable episode of The Cosby Show for me was based on this premise, when Cliff ate a submarine sandwich before going to bed, then dreamed he was pregnant. –  Flimzy Oct 31 '11 at 19:43
1  
I eat just before going to bed often, and have never had issues. When my wife eats just before going to bed, she almost always has really, really weird dreams (not usually nightmares though). So, it's different for everybody. –  BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Nov 1 '11 at 22:33
3  
@BlueRaja-DannyPflughoeft The right wording would be "so I guess it could be different for everybody." I wouldn't trust an anecdote, even if it was about me, unless I've objectively collected data on it (time and size of last meal, assessment of dreams on some sort of scale), and even then I would not that I could be unintendedly creating the symptoms myself by having my own assuptions. Preferably it woudn't even be me collecting the data, but my spouse. The problem is, we humans are really really good at unintentionally fooling ourselves. –  Ilari Kajaste Apr 21 '12 at 10:59
show 1 more comment

1 Answer

According to Medline Plus, eating right before bed can increase your metabolism and increase your brain's overnight activity, leading to dreams and nightmares.

Substances such as alcohol and nicotine cause a lighter sleep and prevent REM sleep, which decreases dreaming. However, some foods may increase REM sleep, which increases dreaming.

The British cheese board (remarkably it does exist) conducted a "study" giving 200 people cheese at most 30 mins before bed and found that 67% (130 odd) remembered their dreams the following day. There was no control in this publicity stunt study (though it was endorsed by a sleep scientist at the University of Surrey) so there is no way of nothing if that is an increase or a decrease from normal rates of dream recall.

So I would say it is possible that eating certain foods might increase your chances of dream recall upon waking. Though with the caevet that this could just be down to cultural expectations that lead people to expect to dream and therefore they "remember" dreams when they wake up. Though Richard Wiseman ran an experiment on this and a fair number of commenters who would have expected to dream failed to recall any dreams.

In short: more research is needed but it's possible and may even be plausible depending on the food being consumed.

share|improve this answer
1  
Could you please add the links to your sources? –  nico Sep 7 '12 at 9:28
    
There's a deleted answer to this question that had comments that addressed the British Cheese Board "study" (that showed nothing useful): web.archive.org/web/20060115000115/http://www.cheeseboard.co.uk/… –  Oddthinking Sep 7 '12 at 13:33
add comment

This post does not cite any references or sources. Please help improve this post by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.

protected by Community Aug 1 '12 at 6:58

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality answers, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site.

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.