why does cheese give you bad dreams
In A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge blamed cheese for causing his ghostly night-time encounters. He only ate a crumb, and the story may have had a happy ending, but the idea that cheese gives you nightmares still persists. Is there any truth to this? A few years ago there were reports that different types of British cheese gave people, though none of the study volunteers reported having nightmares as such. Stilton-eaters had bizarre dreams, fans of Red Leicester dreamt about the past, and those who ate Lancashire before bed dreamt about the future. If you want to dream about celebrities, apparently you should make Cheddar your bedtime snack. But bear in mind that this was a survey conducted by the body that promotes cheese in the UK, one that goes by the wonderful name of. There is no doubt that it was a clever piece of marketing, but as a scientific study it had fundamental flaws. There was no control group, so we do not know, for instance, whether people who did not eat cheese in the evenings had more or fewer bad dreams. Perchance to dream For argument s sake, though, let s explore whether there is anything in cheese that could promote bad dreams. Eating heavy meals with a high fat content late at night can give you indigestion, which in turn disturbs your sleep. Disturbed sleep often involves more nightmares, or at least the memory of more nightmares, because you wake more often and remember them. In some countries the last course eaten in a big meal is cheese, which might suggest that cheese leads to nightmares, but it could of course be the quantity of food, rather than cheese in particular which led to indigestion. It is worth noting that as well as blaming the crumb of cheese for his apparitions, Scrooge also blames an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, or possibly a fragment of an underdone potato.
But there is another substance contained in cheese which might be pertinent here tryptophan. It is an amino acid found in various foods, including milk, chicken, turkey and peanuts. The body uses it to produce serotonin, a chemical messenger associated with stable mood and sound sleep. Sometimes it has been suggested that this is why people who celebrate Christmas or Thanksgiving with roast turkey often feel sleepy after lunch that and the alcohol, of course. Studies on tryptophan as a sleeping pill have shown, but for some people it is effective. Extreme response The idea that cheese has strange effects on the mind could come from a very real, but rare phenomenon known as the cheese reaction. There is a class of older antidepressants called monoamine oxidase B inhibitors, which reduce the breakdown of chemicals such as serotonin. These drugs can be effective in treating depression, but they have an unusual and very serious side effect. They prevent the breakdown of the substance tyramine, which occurs naturally in cheese. If tyramine builds up it can cause blood pressure to rise to levels high enough to increase the risk of heart problems or stroke. The cheese reaction can prove fatal, so although this antidepressant is used less commonly now, people taking it are given strict warnings to avoid cheese and other foods, including cured or pickled products. The problem is that the amount of tyramine contained in foods is highly variable; when patients experiment they might find they are fine on one occasion, but have a serious reaction the next. So, incomplete as the evidence is, there is no solid proof that eating cheese at night causes nightmares. What we can say with more certainty is that if you eat immediately before going to bed, or have over-eaten, then indigestion might give you a restless night.
But it could be the case that a little cheese might even help you sleep more soundly. If you would like to comment on this story or anything else you have seen on Future, head over to our
or message us on. Disclaimer All content within this column is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. The BBC is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made by a user based on the content of this site. The BBC is not liable for the contents of any external internet sites listed, nor does it endorse any commercial product or service mentioned or advised on any of the sites. Always consult your own GP if you're in any way concerned about your health. Apologies before we start, but this is all going to sound a bit cheesy. Obviously, because itвs all about cheese and whether it does or doesnвt give us nightmares. We didnвt take the subject too seriously at first, and saw it as just one of those вsayingsв that people quote a lot yet donвt really believe. But when we did start to investigate, it seems there is a connection between cheese, dreams and nightmares. В This is what we found about the effects of eating cheese before bed. In 2005 The British Cheese Board carried out aВ in which a number of people were given a 3 ounce piece of cheese to eat just before bedtime. Different people were given different types of cheese and a report was then taken to record the dreams and nightmares of all the participants to detect any patterns. Overall, the good news for the Cheese Board was that an impressive 75% of the participants said they slept pretty well each night, with no occurrence of nightmares. Additionally, most of them said that they could clearly remember their dreams. This led to the conclusion that the essential amino acid in milk, and therefore cheese tryptophan was having its effect on the cheese eaters by stabilising their sleep patterns and reducing stress levels.
Strangely enough though, the different cheeses eaten resulted in different types of dreams: Cheddar cheese tended to produce dreams about celebrities, including sitting in a pub with Katie PriceВ 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, whilst 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 dreams. Stilton could be a great choice if you work in a creative environment and require some story fuel. Of all the cheeses eaten, Cheshire cheese led to a peaceful, nightвs sleep without any dreams at all. So, if you want a peaceful night s sleep with no interruptions, this is the cheese for you. В No nightmares, but plenty of dreams So does eating cheese before bedtime give you nightmares? No it doesnвt. Well at least according to research by The British Cheese Board it doesnвt. What it does seem to do though is produce a whole variety of different dreams that all seem to be fairly memorable. Which means if youвre one of those people who like to dream and really want to dream more often, then cheese for supper might just do the trick. Let us know about any cheese related dreams you have. We wonвt think youвre crackers, honest!
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