If you’ve ever woken in the middle of the night, sweaty and panicked, remembering the nightmare you just had, there’s a good chance you’ve also considered how to get rid of your bad dreams. There are many theories about what causes dreams, and most deal with bodily functions you can’t control, such as memory processing or your brain simply reacting to biochemical reactions in your body. However, what if there is something more mundane that affects your state of sleep? Could something as simple as your diet affect your dreams? Turns out, there may be some links between what you’re consuming, when you’re consuming it and those super-loopy dreams you’ve been having.
Unfortunately, there is no solid scientific proof diet affects your dreams, but that doesn’t mean you should grab the nearest leftover bowl of spicy pad thai at 1 a.m. According to the National Sleep Foundation, while dreams haven’t been studied directly, sleep quality in relation to food consumption has been studied.
The National Sleep Foundation explains that certain foods can be responsible for keeping you awake. The organization cites foods like whole grains, fruits and even proteins as foods that give energy to the eater. That extra bit of alertness can, in turn, affect your dreams.
Grateful reached out to Dr. Ian K. Smith, who is the chief medical advisor for Jetson and a former member of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition under Barack Obama. Dr. Smith explained, “Diet can affect dreams in conjunction with the quality of sleep you are getting. For instance, if you consume a ton of caffeine just prior to bedtime, it will cause your mind to race, which could affect dreaming patterns.” However, Dr. Smith also explains that certain foods can help soothe the body, causing more relaxed sleeping patterns that could result in less-nightmarish dreaming. He points to nuts, like almonds and walnuts, and tart cherry juice for their melatonin, as well as chamomile tea, which contains the antioxidant apigenin, and is scientifically backed to help sleep.
Grateful also spoke with board-certified specialist in sports dietetics and consulting dietitian for ICONIC Protein Molly Kimball, who explained there could be some anecdotal evidence that some foods diminish sleep quality and, in turn, make dreams more vivid.
“While there’s no scientific proof that certain foods — like spicy dishes, cheeses or chocolate — propel us toward certain dream patterns, how we fuel our bodies can directly affect our sleep and dreams,” Kimball shares. “Reflux, overeating and improper nutrition can keep us from hitting that optimal dream stage of sleep. So eating that block of cheese before bed won’t automatically make you dream of scary things, but putting your digestive system in overdrive right before bed could cause disrupted sleep that feels restless and may be littered with half-dreams from never fully entering the REM cycle.”
Kimball also explains that there are ways to avoid those restless, dream-filled nights you’ve been having. She says, “The best way to eat for sleep is to load up on nutrients, stay hydrated, and make sure you aren’t going to sleep on a full or uncomfortable stomach.” As for what those foods are, according to Good Housekeeping, fruits like figs, watermelon and prunes can help lead to restful sleep. Herbal teas are also a great choice, as is dark chocolate.
If you’ve been curious about whether or not your diet can affect your dreams, the answer is, well, kind of. Certain foods can affect your sleep patterns which will then change the quality of your nighttime rest. If you want to test this theory out for yourself, maybe put down the string cheese and opt for a bit of fruit and some chamomile tea instead.
Looking for a delicious fall drink to help you unwind at night? Try out healthier pumpkin spice latte recipe.