Human beings are the only species we know of with strong powers of imagination and sometimes we do use those powers to traumatize ourselves! Yes, we have long had a fascination with dreams, believing that they may have hidden meanings, could be some medium of spiritual communication, or hold bad omens! While there’s little truth to most of these theories, one story that has persisted relates to the influence of our food choices on dreams, or more importantly on nightmares.
The Influence Of Diet On Dreams
“Food can work directly or indirectly on mood & behavior, with certain nutrients & compounds in foods influencing alertness, focus, or even perception”
The persistence of the belief that foods can impact dreams or cause nightmares is dismissed by much as unscientific, but there may be some truth to it. Intrigued scientists decided to explore the connection between food and nightmares, using exploratory surveys and lab studies as well. Their findings were published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, helping shed some light on the food and dream connection. They found that certain foods have a greater association with nightmares; but while confirming the claims, there is still little understanding of how foods affect dreams.
Although at first glance, such connections may appear frivolous, they cannot be dismissed offhand, as food can work directly or indirectly on mood and behavior. Nutrients and compounds in foods can after all influence alertness, focus, or even perception. For example, caffeine has a stimulating effect, while capsacin in peppers boosts metabolism. Indirectly, there is an even greater likelihood of food influencing dreams, as food choices can affect or impair quality of sleep.
Foods Linked With Nightmares
Based on findings from the above-mentioned study and other surveys, here are some foods that are most commonly associated with nightmares.
Milk may be a great sleeping aid for many because of its tryptophan content, which promotes sleep. However, dairy products like cheese can have quite an undesirable effect on many people and are most commonly associated with nightmares and disturbed sleep. Sorry folks, it’s time to ditch the pizza and cheese pav bhaji!
Researchers found that the consumption of excessively spicy food shortly before bedtime was also associated with sleeplessness and bad dreams. This effect may be connected with the effect of spicy food on body temperature, which then interferes with dream formation in REM sleep.
A popular sedative for many, alcohol is actually the worst substance for sleep, impairing sleep quality significantly. Drinking at night is also linked with nightmares, but as pointed out by some psychologists, this could be a result of sleep impairment resulting from alcohol consumption.
More than a quarter of the study’s participants reported bad or strange dreams following consumption of sugar-rich foods like pastries, sweets, and chocolates. This is believed to be a result of the high sugar content in sweets, as well as caffeine in chocolate. So, enjoy your sweets earlier in the day and spare yourself those nightmares and cavities!
Bread & Pasta
This should come as no surprise to those with some knowledge of nutrition. After all, carbs are converted into glucose, a form of sugar, with simple carbs causing a spike in insulin levels, as they are broken down rapidly. This is the most plausible explanation for many people who report stressful dreams and nightmares following bread and pasta consumption.
Unfortunately, research on the subject is still inadequate and until we further our understanding of the effects of food chemistry on the mind it’s impossible to reach any scientific consensus. So, while most user-reported data and surveys confirm the food nightmare link, scientists warn us that popular perceptions could influence user experience, with many mistakenly connecting their nightmares with their food choices.