While I love a late-night snack as much as anyone, I definitely feel weird sometimes after eating tons of salty popcorn or digging into my favorite pint of ice cream right before bed. Either my body wants me to stay up until some of the snacks are digested, or the salt and sugar give me an extra boost of energy that keeps me from drifting off. Of course, this is a pretty minor problem that I can easily fix by shifting my munchies time to earlier in the evening, but it’s good to know which foods can cause bad dreams so you don’t accidentally give yourself the most terrifying nightmare of your life.
TBH, there isn’t a ton of scientific research out there on the effects that food can have on your dreams. Dreams are a mysterious thing in general, but I don’t know about you, I hate nightmares more than anything, and despite my love for a midnight snack, I’ll steer clear of certain munchie foods if it means I won’t have to be spooked by creepy clowns all night long.
The thing is, apparently "eating anything too close to bedtime can trigger dreams," Dr. Charles Bae, MD, a sleep medicine doctor at the Sleep Disorders Center at the Cleveland Clinic, told Glamour. According to the outlet, eating that late can raise your body temperature and your metabolism, which in turn can cause your body to interrupt your sleep and start dreaming.
Look, I’m not telling you to stop snacking altogether at night. But if you know you need to get a good night’s sleep, or you just want to avoid a creepy nightmare, here are some snacks to watch out for.
A big plate of cheese fries
If you’re looking to have a gouda night’s sleep, you might want to save the dairy snacks for breakfast. A 2015 study published in the academic journal Frontiers In Psychology surveyed 382 participants about how they felt their eating habits affected their sleep. Dairy products, including cheese, milk, and ice cream, were the foods most frequently said to cause less-than-happy dreams. In fact, 44 percent of people in the survey said these types of food caused disturbing dreams, and 39 percent said eating dairy before bed led to bizarre dreams.
The good news is that the researchers speculated in their paper that people who are already sensitive to lactose are likely to notice this effect more dramatically, so if your body digests dairy like a champ, you’ll probably be safe to spend the night thinking about puppies instead of something more terrifying.
During the same Frontiers In Psychology study, 18.8 percent of participants in the survey reported that snacking on spicy foods led to bizarre and disturbing dreams, so loading up on sriracha with your nighttime snack might not be the best move if you’re hoping for a restful sleep.
Of course, if you do notice this connection’s effects on your own dreams, chances are you can de-spice whatever hot food you love best. If a mouth-burning curry is what you usually whip up for a late dinner, maybe try skipping some of the heat or simply diluting it with some creamy coconut milk.
A bowl full of pasta
A study published in the scientific journal PLOS One surveyed 1,848 people about how often they eat rice, bread, and noodles. And I hate to say this, but apparently, the researchers discovered that eating pasta may be linked to poor sleep quality.
But that doesn’t mean you have to skip carbs when it’s time for dinner. Bread only slightly affected participants’ sleep in that study, and rice actually improved it, so the next time you’re craving sushi, you have the perfect excuse to treat yourself.
Anything you have trouble digesting
According to the National Sleep Foundation, it’s totally possible that you aren’t actually having more bad dreams after eating a food that doesn’t exactly agree with you (hello olives, my old friend). Instead, the foundation explains, an upset stomach could be the thing that’s waking you up more frequently throughout the night, which can then increase the likelihood that you will remember your nightmares.
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