The age-old myth that eating cheese before bed can cause nightmares has finally been put to rest. A study by the British Cheese Board shows that indulging in some night cheese could actually induce certain types of dreams. Yes, you read that correctly – if you want to hack your dreams, there’s literally a cheese for that.
In an interview with NPR, Nigel White (Secretary of the British Cheese Board at the time of the study) asked participants to eat a piece of cheese a half hour before bed (on the smaller side – two-thirds of an ounce). Participants were asked to keep a record of their sleep quality and the dreams they were having. All 200 participants reported zero nightmares throughout the study – but that wasn’t much of a surprise to White:
“…the science of that, we think, is that there is an essential amino acid in milk called tryptophan. Now tryptophan is known to be something which is helpful in normalizing sleep and reducing stress levels. That seemed to make sense to us. What was really wacky was that the type of cheese that people were eating seemed to give them different types of dreams.”
So what types of dreams did each cheese produce?
Blue Cheese / Blue Stilton
Volunteers reported, “quite vivid dreams.”
White: “One of the volunteers said that she dreamed of a vegetarian crocodile who was upset because he couldn’t eat children. And another one dreamed that they had soldiers fighting with each other with kittens instead of guns.”
Interestingly, this cheese seemed to affect women more, with 85% reporting bizarre, vivid dreams.
White: “There seemed to be a theme there where the volunteers were dreaming of celebrities.”
White: “The people who ate Cheshire said they had nice sleeps, but they were dreamless.”
White: “It seemed to be very nostalgic dreams that people were having about things that happened in their childhood or with their families.”
White: “As far as the Lancashire was concerned, they’d seem to dream about work. Actually, one even dreamed of being the prime minister of the country. Well, I can assure you it wasn’t the prime minister who took part.”
Again, there’s a gender divide here: woman reported nice dreams (like cooking dinner with Jamie Oliver), and men reported odd dreams (like having a conversation with a talking dog).
The one downside to all of this? Only popular British cheeses were tested, so more commonly consumed American cheeses (like Monterey Jack or Parmesan) weren’t part of the study. If there’s an American version of this study in the works, I volunteer as tribute.