Posted by: beagle4 | March 12, 2011

Cheese Please

There are many old-wives tales about the foods you eat before you go to sleep and their effect on dreaming. One of them is that if you eat cheese before bedtime, you’ll have nightmares and experience a restless night of sleep. In 2005, the British Cheese Board conducted a scientific investigation to see if this myth was true or not. (Yes, there is an entire board dedicated to educating the British public about eating cheese as part of a balanced diet.) The intention was to hopefully use the results to encourage more people to eat cheese before bed. I found a discussion on National Public Radio (NPR) featuring Nigel White, the secretary of the British Cheese Board. Listen if you would like, it’s a short interview.

The British Cheese Board gave 200 volunteers(100 male and 100 female) two thirds of an ounce (about 19 grams) of cheese a half-hour before bed for a week. All volunteers kept a dream diary documenting the type of sleep and dreams that they experienced. Six different types of British cheese were given to an equal number of participants. The cheeses included: Stilton, Cheddar, Red Leicester, British Brie, Lancashire, and Cheshire. The study was endorsed by Neil Stanley of the Sleep Research HPRU Medical Research Centre at the University of Surrey.

The conclusion of the study was that eating cheese before bed will not only aid a good night’s sleep, but different cheeses will in fact cause different types of dreams. Of the 200 volunteers, 72% slept well every night, 67% remembered their dreams, and none recorded experiencing nightmares. The different type of cheese eaten before bed influenced the content of dreams. The Stilton cheese seemed to cause unusual dreams with 75% of men and 85% of women experiencing odd and vivid dreams. Oddly enough, 65% of the people eating Cheddar dreamt about celebrities, 65% of participants eating Red Leicester revisited their schooldays, 100% of the female participants who ate British Brie had nice relaxing dreams whereas male participants had cryptic dreams, 67% who ate Lancashire had a dream about work, and over 50% of Cheshire eaters had a dreamless sleep (source). By selecting the type of cheese you eat before bedtime may help determine the very nature of often colorful and vivid cheese induced dreams.

One potential explanation for the effects cheese has on dreaming is tryptophan, one of the essential amino acids found in milk used to make cheese. According to Dr. Judith Bryans, a nutrition scientist at Britain’s Dairy Council, tryptophan has been shown to reduce stress and induce sleep.

So, does eating cheese give you nightmares or have any negative effects like the old-wives tales claim? According to The British Cheese Board, the answer is no, but it does appear to increase dream intensity which helps you to remember more dreams. Cheese may produce more vivid and emotionally charged dreams, depending on the type of cheese you eat. So try it out for yourself and have some cheese before you go to bed, I know I will.

Now just close your eyes and dream…

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Responses

  1. Phew! I love cheese, and I was worried you were going to give me bad news.

    This reminds me of Wallace and Gromit–ever seen those cartoons? Wallace is addicted to cheese :).

  2. Do you know where the wives tale originated from? It sounds like cheese has the exact opposite effect on people with happy dreams and deep sleep. Could part of this be from bias put on the study seeing as it was done by the British Cheese Board? I am guessing they have some interest in getting people to eat more cheese.

  3. What does “cryptic dreams” mean?

  4. This is a very bizarre study. The moral? Eat cheese! Gromit will be happy.


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