Does Cheese cause nightmares? The answer is “no”. But what is more fascinating is if we were to re-word the question just a bit.
Does Cheese affect our dreams? The answer is a BIG “yes”. Cheese contains tryptophan – an amino acid which has been found to lower and relieve stress and also acts as a mild sedative that induces sleep. People who eat food high in tryptophan yield a higher dream recollection rate and more vivid dreams. The incidence of nightmare in any given number of people who have eaten high amounts oftryptophan before sleep is the same as a given number of people who do not eat tryptophan before sleep.
A popular British Study done in 2005 came back with conclusions leading the research team to believe that certain kinds of cheese does affect what subject matter a dreamer might dream about. The findings were this:
Cheddar – Increases dreams about celebrities.
Red Leicester – Increases dreams about the past.
Lancashire – Increases dreams about the future.
Cheshire and Red Leicester – Improves sleep quality.
Stilton/Blue Cheese – Increases the effects of particularly bizarre dreams (especially in women).
It can easily be argued that this study, in order to be conclusive, would need to test on much larger scales, for a longer period of time (the study lasted a week) and with more varieties of cheese. But, strikingly enough, it should be noted that out of all 1,400 potential (not everyone remembered their dreams) “cheese dreams” there were no reports of nightmares. And given the amount of cheese (and thus, tryptophan), there is enough evidence to say that this old wives’ tale is most likely myth.
However, given that cheese is high in tryptophan and eating cheese more than doubled dream recollection in the above study (67% recalled dreams while, on average 30% of Americans recall their dreams frequently), it is worth while to look at tryptophan and the human body rather than cheese in particular. Tryptophan forms 5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) which is marketed in the many countries, including the United States as an over-the-counter supplement for mood disorders (especially depression and anxiety) and as a sleep aid (it is also marketed to be used as an appetite suppressant). Why would it be affective for these areas? Because 5-HTP creates mood – enhancing Serotonin as well as the drowsy at-ease neurotransmitter Melatonin (which is also used holistically as a sleep aid). In fact, some studies have found a Tryptophan depletion in insomniacs, leading Tryptophan to be a semi-common suggestion from a nutritional standpoint to help people with Insomnia.
Whether one would like to use this information to enhance vivid dreams, dream recollection, or as a sleep aid, the best way to get these types of amino acids is simply to eat food rich in them (especially since many of these foods are part of a balanced diet). Here is a list of food high in Tryptophan for your very own at-home studies. From highest to lowest: Egg White, Spirulina, Atlantic Cod, Raw soybeans, Parmesan Cheese, Caribou, Sesame Seeds, Cheddar Cheese, Sunflower Seeds, Pork Chops, Turkey, Chicken, Beef, Salmon, Lamb Chop, Atlantic Perch, Eggs, Wheat Flour, Milk, White Rice, Russet Potatoes, and Bananas.
For further reading check out:
The Harvard Medical School Guide to a Good Night’s Sleep
Mind Boosters: A Guide to Natural Supplements that Enhance Your Mind, Memory, and Mood
5-HTP: The Natural Way to Overcome Depression, Obesity, and Insomnia
– K. Kennedy