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Does cheese give you nightmares? © Dan Bright

Does cheese give you nightmares?

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Being chased by monsters whilst you snooze might have more to do with eating late and consuming fatty foods rather than specifically eating cheese.

We’re often told that eating cheese before bed gives you bad dreams, but there’s little evidence to back this up.


The nightmares most likely result simply from eating late at night. While going to bed on a full stomach is never a good idea, studies show that eating fatty foods, such as cheese, just before bedtime gives us a lower quality sleep – and we’re more likely to remember our dreams if we wake up a lot.

The link between late-night eating and nightmares is backed up by a Canadian study from 2015, in which psychologists questioned 396 students on their sleep habits. Almost half said that eating late brought on nightmares or disturbing dreams. Meanwhile, around 15 per cent believed that certain foods made their dreams more “bizarre or disturbing”, with dairy foods the main culprits. However, the researchers point out that this belief could stem from years of being fed this old wives’ tale.

One theory linking cheese to nightmares points to a chemical in cheese called tyramine, which comes from the amino acid tyrosine. Tyramine triggers the release of the neurotransmitter noradrenaline in an area of the brain linked to dream sleep. But plenty of other foods with no reported nightmare links, such as chocolate, also contain tyramine, so there’s a definite need for more proof on this one.

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Dr Emma Davies is a science writer and editor with a PhD in food chemistry from the University of Leeds. She writes about all aspects of chemistry, from food and the environment to toxicology and regulatory science.


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