Dr Neil Stanley Independent Sleep Expert
© Dr. Neil Stanley 2013-2024
Cheese and dreams There is a commonly held belief that eating cheese causes dreams, and unwittingly I seem to be quoted whenever this ‘fact’ is mentioned. How this happened was that a few years ago I was asked to provide a quote a ‘cheese and dreams’ study for the Cheese Marketing Board. I was not actually involved in the ‘study’ and merely provided a couple of quotes for the press release. Indeed it was not an actual scientific study merely a PR stunt to garner a few headlines. However I will try to summarise the issue. Cheese contains an amino acid called tryptophan, (also found in turkey, milk, eggs, nuts, chicken, fish, soy and tofu), which is a precursor for serotonin which is implicated in helping you get to sleep (serotonin is also a precursor of Melatonin). Cheese also contains tyramine (also found in many other foods) which is a precursor for noradrenalin; an increase of which has been implicated in potentially causing sleep disturbance. There is an old theory of sleep where serotonin and noradrenalin modulate various stages of sleep; but we now know that it is vastly more complex than that. Now you can only remember a dream if you wake up during it, so anything that disturbs sleep will potentially cause you to remember more dreams. Therefore an alternative and just as plausible explanation is that cheese is very high in fat and burning off those calories overnight could cause sleep disturbance, again other food are also high in fat, so no explanation accounts for the supposed particular action of cheese on sleep and dreams. There is no hypothesis about how cheese in particular, and not the other foods, affects the content of dreams but of course the more dreams you remember the more likely you are to have an ‘interesting’ dream. So in summary there is nothing in cheese, with regards to sleep/dreams that is not in countless other foods, so cheese as such does not cause dreams/nightmares.