Here’s the scenario: You’ve just polished off a delicious evening meal and it’s time for dessert. You fancy something savoury to complement your decaf cappuccino or delicious glass of port, but you have a big day at work tomorrow and you need a good night’s sleep. So instead, you order the cheese board.
You know that sweet dreams aren’t made of cheese, and who are we to disagree? To avoid nightmares, we’re advised to choose what we’re going to eat before bedtime Caerphilly, as ordering the cheese board could Brie a big mistake. We might be Cheddar off without it. OK – no more cheesy puns (they can grate after a while).
However, it is an interesting question that we’d like to get to the bottom of. After all, at Secret Linen we love to create bedding and sheets that make sleeping as comfortable and pleasurable as possible - can a little bit of cheese really spoil that?
The British Cheese Board study
Back in 2005, the British Cheese Board tried to lay the myth to rest by carrying out an in-depth study. Over the course of a week, 100 men and 100 women ate 20 grams of cheese, half an hour before they tucked themselves into bed. They were asked to record the details of their dreams upon waking.
The study found that 67 per cent of participants remembered their dreams, but not one of the 200 people recalled having a nightmare. Does this prove that cheesy nightmares are just an old wives’ tale?
Admittedly, any study which comes from the British Cheese Board is probably biased in favour of eating cheese, so it might not be the most reliable source. But what about the science of cheese? Do Stilton, Cheddar, Red Leicester and Brie contain any ingredients which might explain this so-called relationship with bad dreams?
Cheese, like anything in moderation, can be consumed as part of a healthy diet. However, it is high in fat, and anything with a high fat content could give you indigestion.
If you’re tossing and turning with an upset stomach, then it stands to reason that you’d have more nightmares, because you drift in and out of sleep more often. Disturbed sleep is commonly linked with nightmares, but this might simply be that waking up more often allows you to remember dreams more easily.
A more airtight argument is that of tryptophan – an amino acid found in cheese that’s said to work like a sleeping pill. Also found in milk, chicken, turkey and peanuts, tryptophan is used by the body to produce serotonin – a chemical thought to affect our moods and social behaviour, appetite and digestion, sexual desire and bowel function, and most importantly in this matter, sleep and memory.
In other words, tryptophan is why we feel ridiculously sleepy after a big Christmas dinner (yep, that and the three glasses of sherry!)
However, while a spike in serotonin levels could send us into a deeper, denser sleep (resulting in crazier dreams), it’s also been shown that low serotonin levels lead to us to restless nights, with “thoughts racing through your head, out of control”.
We’ve all had nights where you just can’t seem to switch off and struggle to fall asleep. In these cases, it might even be worthwhile having some cheese or a glass of milk before bed.
Ultimately though, there’s no concrete proof that cheese gives you nightmares. The quality of your night’s sleep could depend on the amount of cheese you eat, when you eat it and your serotonin levels at the time, but it could just as easily depend on how comfortable your bed is, the heat in the room and what’s on your mind.
So go ahead and order the cheese board; chances are you’ll still have a Gouda night’s sleep.