We’ve had this theory for years. When we have a really bad dream, if we think back to the night before, we almost always ate something right before going to sleep. We’re convinced there’s a correlation between nightmares and late-night snacks. Seeing as we’re not scientists, we sought out to do some research to discover if that bag of Doritos really is to blame for the monsters under our bed or if we’ve created our own version of an old wive’s tale.
Before we delve into whether or not a meal before bed causes bad dreams, let’s talk a little about nightmares themselves.
Nightmares are dreams that occur during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep that results in feelings of strong terror, fear, distress or extreme anxiety. This phenomenon tends to occur in the latter part of the night and oftentimes awakens the sleeper, who is likely to recall the content of the dream. Nightmares are:
More common in females than in men
May be a normal reaction to stress
Very common before the age 10
Prevelent in adulthood too and, if so, are more likely to be caused by trauma or anxiety
Nightmares are considered normal, unless they occur frequently and impair social, occupational and other functional areas of your life. If this is the case, they may be referred to as Nightmare Disorder or “repeated nightmares.”
There are a few studies that support my beliefs and show evidence that eating before bed may lead to nightmares.
We already know that eating before bed is a bad idea. That extra food means that your body is going to boost its metabolism and temperature which leads to more brain activity during REM sleep. More brain activity during REM sleep means more dreams, but does it mean more nightmares too?
Recently, a study by the University of Montreal, discovered a correlation between food, eating before bed and nightmares. In their study, they found that 9.5% of the study’s participants reported a link between late eating and nightmares.
Another study published in the Journal of The Mind and Body, found that ice cream and candy bars can trigger increased brain waves. This caused 7 of their 10 participants to experience nightmares. The study also revealed just going to bed on a full stomach, whatever you ate, can cause nightmare-inducing brain waves.
Unfortunately nightmares happen to everyone at times. Thankfully they aren’t common for adults, but according to the research we found, there are some simple things you can do to prevent the likelihood of having a bad dream.
Practice lucid dreaming — Charlie Morley, a lucid dream teacher, believes nightmares are an essential part of our being. Charlie uses lucid dreaming techniques to battle the demons in his unconscious mind and release himself from their grip.
We hope the advice and research we’ve found means that you’re less likely to be chased by the Boogeyman in slumberland tonight. If you’re hungry for more sleep info, check out the links below!
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