When we wake up in the middle of the night, heart stuttering from some recent nightmare, we often search for something to blame. Most often, we fault food for our fiendish dreams. (Ohhh I ate a jalapeno-crusted cheesesteak and an entire stack of beer-battered onion rings for dinner; that MUST be it). It makes sense to suspect food, as rich, spicy meals lead to heartburn and other such stomach issues which, one might think, could contribute to nightmares. However, no scientific data has proven an answer either way.
That’s not for lack of effort, as many studies have been done to find a correlation between the two. One of the most notable took place last year, and was conducted by Tore Nielsen of the Dream & Nightmare Laboratory in Montreal. Nielsen had 396 male students complete questionnaires about their dietary and sleep habits, and whether they had any disturbing dreams.
Interestingly, Nielsen did notice a pattern between what you eat and what horrific dreams may come. However, he theorized that this was only because the participants believed food choice led to nightmares. (As the Cranberries might say, it was in their heaaaa-aaaadddd).
Here are 13 of the foods that were used in the study (you can see the data here), ranked in descending order from their likeliness to cause nightmares among the participants.
Of the 68 participants who indicated that their dreams were affected by eating certain foods, 12.5 percent blamed it on cheese. Whether it’s warranted or not, cheese does have a big reputation for causing nightmares -- according to a totally unofficial study conducted by the British Cheese Board, Stilton cheese can result in dreams that are bizarre or crazy. (Fun fact! Ebenezer Scrooge even blamed his bad dreams on cheese in A Christmas Carol).
Don’t tell your nonna — ragus, ziti and other such dishes nabbed 12.5 percent.
12.5 percent of participants surveyors called out steak, hamburgers and hot dogs as being associated with wicked dreams.
For people prone to heartburn, a symptom of acid reflux, pizza is one of the worst things to chow on before bed. 9.4 percent of participants thought it led to wicked dreams, too.
5. Spicy Foods
Might want to stop slathering all that Sriracha on your dinner. More than nine percent of participants blamed nightmares on spicy foods.
For what it’s worth, dream analyst Lauri Lowenberg says that spicy, rich foods are definitely a gateway to nightmares.
Other than this lady, who could ever be scared of pickles? Maybe no one. But 9.4 percent of participants did say that the brined cucs caused gnarly reveries.
Call your mom, tell her she was wrong: A glass of warm milk might actually contribute to a worse night’s sleep, with 6.3 percent of participants accusing milk of causing nightmares.
8. Sugar, Sweets and Candy
More than six percent of participants said their sweet tooth left them scared sleepless.
We don’t really have to tell you not to take down an entire bag of mini Three Musketeers before bed, do we? Classified separately from sugar, sweets and candy, chocolate was the reason 6.3 percent of participants said they had nightmares.
10. Fast Food
Not such a happy meal, is it? 6.3 percent of participants said their liking for fast food gave them bad dreams.
Sounds counterintuitive, doesn't it? It might be. But the fact remains, 6.3 percent of participants indicated nightmares on nights when they ate vegetables. Maybe they were just trying to avoid those brussel sprouts.
Poutine, that gluttonous Canadian dish in which a pile of french fries are speckled with cheese curds and slathered in gravy, was responsible for 3.1 percent of participants saying they had nightmares. (Kinda makes sense, doesn’t it?)
As if carbs weren’t blamed for enough already: Three percent of participants said noodles gave them bad dreams.
Have these foods, or any others, given you nightmares? We want to hear about them...or any other dreams. Just, you know, keep ‘em short. Shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.