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Can Eating Foods Such as Cheese Cause Vivid Dreams

  • Published: 2011-08-08 (Revised/Updated 2015-08-07) : Author: Disabled World : Contact: Disabled World
  • Synopsis: Does eating certain foods before sleep cause you to dream more? Includes a list of foods that are reported to make you have vivid and lucid dreams.

One of the age-old beliefs is that eating cheese before bed will give you nightmares. But is it true and do different cheeses have different effects

Vivid Dreams - Dreams that you remember as if it just happened. Typically, The most vivid dreams are the ones you have right before waking. Although, sometimes if a dream has very significant relevance to something important in your Life, you can experience it early on in dream state and still have vivid memories of it upon waking.

Lucid Dream - A dream in which one is aware that one is dreaming. In a lucid dream, the dreamer has greater chances to exert some degree of control over their participation within the dream or be able to manipulate their imaginary experiences in the dream environment. Lucid dreams can be realistic and vivid.

Although scientists are still unsure of the relationship between dreams and eating before bed, it is clear that eating close to sleeping can cause disrupted sleep. It seems to depend on what is in the meal and what time you eat that meal before you go to sleep.

According to Medline Plus, eating right before bed increases your metabolism which also increases your brain's overnight activity, leading to dreams and nightmares. Whereas some substances such as alcohol and nicotine cause a lighter sleep and prevent REM sleep, which decreases dreaming.

Eating before bed can affect things other than dreams.

Eating before bed can increase heartburn, a condition in which stomach acid leaks from your stomach into your esophagus. This can lead to burning sensations and chest pain, disrupting your sleep. According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, eating right before sleep can also aggravate cyclical vomiting syndrome, in which individuals suffer from episodes of nausea and vomiting.

What can you eat before bed to make your dreams more vivid

Eating Cheese Before Bed:

One of the age-old beliefs is that eating cheese before bed will give you nightmares. But is it true and do different cheeses have different effects? Well, British researchers gave 200 people cheese every night for a week before bed. No one had a nightmare but it did affect their dreams. People who ate cheddar dreamed about celebrities. While another British cheese, Red Leicester, sent people back to their schooldays.

Eating Spicy Foods Before Bed:

When and what we eat may affect our nighttime rest, if not our tendency toward bad dreams. A study published in the International Journal of Psychophysiology had a group of healthy men eat spicy meals before bed on some evenings and compared their quality of sleep on nights where they had non-spiced meals. On the spicy nights, the subjects spent more time awake and had poorer quality sleep. The explanation is that spicy food can elevate body temperatures and thus disrupt sleep. This may also be the reason why some people report bad dreams when they eat too close to bedtime. Though few studies have looked at it, eating close to bedtime increases metabolism and brain activity and may prompt bad dreams or nightmares.


There are a few people who claim garlic affects their sleep, as well as causing them to have weird dreams and really vivid nightmares.

Vitamin B6 - Pyridoxine:

Some people swear taking Vitamin B6 before sleep will produce very vivid dreams. In addition scientists have found that vivid dreams are often a symptom of an excess of vitamin B6 in the body. Individuals who are taking a lot of vitamin B6 as a supplement may notice an increase in vivid dreaming. Foods that contain vitamin B6 include; bananas, oranges, fish, liver, beans, nuts, eggs, chicken, carrots, spinach, and other healthy foods.


Tryptophan is an amino acid taken by Vitamin B6 and converted into Serotonin. Serotonin can cause extremely vivid dreams at higher levels. Tryptophan is found in such foods as cheddar cheese, chicken, salmon, lamb, egg, flour, white rice, and milk. Cheddar cheese has the most amount of tryptophan.

Apple Cider Vinegar:

Apple Cider Vinegar has been said to cause extremely vivid and realistic dreams. Mix 2 tablespoons in a large glass of water, add some honey if you don't like the taste.

Other foods that are said to create vivid dreaming:

Pizza before bed is another food that many people suggest causes vivid dreams. It has also been reported that eating cabbage or brussel sprouts close to bedtime will bring your dreams alive in smellovision.

Various herbal supplements and medication can also be a cause of vivid dreaming. For example, individuals who start taking anti-depressant medications will often notice an increase in vivid dreaming. Certain herbs, such as valerian root and chamomile, which are used to induce sleep, can also bring on more vivid dreams.

Nicotine Patches:

Though certainly not a food, one of the side effects of nicotine patches include hyper vivid dreams that last for hours and feel very real. Here is a link ( to a medical study titled, "The effect of transdermal nicotine patches on sleep and dreams. "

Lucid Dreams and Meta-cognition:

Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin and the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich have discovered that the brain area which enables self-reflection is larger in lucid dreamers. Thus, lucid dreamers are possibly also more self-reflecting when being awake.

Lucid dreamers are aware of dreaming while dreaming. Sometimes, they can even play an active role in their dreams. Most of them, however, have this experience only several times a year and just very few almost every night. Internet forums and blogs are full of instructions and tips on lucid dreaming. Possibly, lucid dreaming is closely related to the human capability of self-reflection - the so-called meta-cognition.

Neuroscientists from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry have compared brain structures of frequent lucid dreamers and participants who never or only rarely have lucid dreams. Accordingly, the anterior prefrontal cortex, i.e., the brain area controlling conscious cognitive processes and playing an important role in the capability of self-reflection, is larger in lucid dreamers.

The differences in volumes in the anterior prefrontal cortex between lucid dreamers and non-lucid dreamers suggest that lucid dreaming and meta-cognition are indeed closely connected. This theory is supported by brain images taken when test persons were solving meta-cognitive tests while being awake. Those images show that the brain activity in the prefrontal cortex was higher in lucid dreamers. "Our results indicate that self-reflection in everyday life is more pronounced in persons who can easily control their dreams," states Elisa Filevich, post-doc in the Center for Lifespan Psychology at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development.

The researchers further want to know whether meta-cognitive skills can be trained. In a follow-up study, they intend to train volunteers in lucid dreaming to examine whether this improves the capability of self-reflection.

Filevich, E., Dresler, M., Brick, T.R., Kuhn, S. - Meta-cognitive Mechanisms Underlying Lucid Dreaming - The Journal of Neuroscience (2015) (DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3342-14.201

Facts: Dreams & Dreaming

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