Cheese for supper and getting a good night’s sleep

It is a widespread belief that eating cheese before bedtime puts us at risk of having their sleep disrupted by disturbing dreams or nightmares. Recently, a trade organisation known as the British Cheese Board commissioned some research designed to establish the validity of cheese’s reputation as a poor choice of late night snack. This research, which had 200 individuals eating a piece of cheese half an hour before retiring each night, found no evidence of bad dreams during the course of the week-long study. In a press release, the British Cheese Board claim that this study lays to rest the ‘myth’ that those eating cheese can have nightmarish consequences.

However, before we go stuffing our faces with cheddar or stilton after supper it is perhaps worth noting that the nightly amount of cheese used in this study was just 20 g (less than ¾ of an ounce). More meaningful results of this study may have been obtained had less measly and more realistic portions been tested. The press release seeking to promote this research touted the fact that 72 per cent of its participants slept well throughout the course of study. However, this study had no non-cheese eating ‘control’ group to compare these findings with, which means that it is difficult to interpret the results of this study with any degree of confidence.

Despite the deficiencies of this recent study, the press release from the British Cheese Board went on to claim that its results suggest that eating cheese before going to bed may actually aid a good night’s sleep. Whilst the design of the study in question make its findings relatively meaningless, it is my experience that eating something quite close to bedtime may indeed aid restful slumber. This practice can be very beneficial for individuals who tend to drop off quite readily, only to find themselves wide awake in the middle of the night. One major underlying factor in this phenomenon seems to be low levels of sugar in the bloodstream in the small hours. The body may respond to this by secreting hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol which stimulate the release of sugar from a starchy storage fuel known as glycogen, but also have the capacity to jolt individuals from sleep in the middle of the night.

Practice shows that eating a little something before bedtime is often highly effective in helping individuals sleep soundly throughout the night. However, cheese would not be my first choice as a midnight snack, partly because I find the eating of dairy products has a habit of inducing nasal congestion, which increases the risk of snoring. Better foods, in my opinion include fruits which release their sugar quite slowly into the bloodstream such as apples and pears, coupled with nuts or seeds which also help to provide sustained sugar levels during sleep. My experience tells me that for those who tend to wake in the night, having some fruit and nuts before bedtime can be the stuff of dreams.

6 Responses to Cheese for supper and getting a good night’s sleep

  1. Ryan 26 July 2007 at 10:13 pm #

    I’ve heard all sorts of wierd myths about what you should and shouldn’t eat before bed in order to avoid nightmares. I’ve heard that sugar tends to give you nightmares too.

    Honestly, I don’t think I can count on my hands how many times I’ve had ice cream before bed and never once had a nightmare that was worth correlating the two together.

    I am going to volunteer and try eating a bunch of cheese nightly to see if it disrupts my sleep! I will check back soon to give you the results!

  2. Dee 22 November 2007 at 12:19 am #

    I agree that cheese doesn’t give you nightmares. I quite often have a bit of camembert with crackers before bed (note: around 10:30pm I eat it, and go to bed at around 12 midnight.)

    Sugar, on the other hand… Although I have a little chocolate before bed most nights and have never had a problem, I overindulged last night and had possibly the worst nightmare I’ve ever had. I found out that some people believe that it’s not cheese, but sugar, which causes nightmares.

    I, for one, am thinking perhaps it is just those who overindulge in any kind of food that do not get a good night’s rest and pleasant dreams. Maybe there should be a study conducted comparing the quality of sleep of people eating *a lot* of a different thing for each person/subject?

  3. laura 17 January 2009 at 9:30 am #

    For me cheese DOES cause nightmares. I didn’t know until just now when I woke up there was a debate about it (I thought it was just a me thing) I’m 25 F, and its happened consistantly for a few years now, if I have a grilled cheese before bed (this is where I noticed the trend) and it can be any cheese.. Chedder, gouda, swiss was tonights evil.. I get very vivid nightmares, ones that are hard to wake up from, usually someone trying to “murder me” and when I do wake up, the feeling lingers for a while, I always wake up terribly thirsty, so maybe dehydration has some play here.. When I was younger I would have said, no never, pizza gives me fantastic fun dreams, but now? No way will I ever do it on purpose… When I slip up, its an awful experience. Btw, it happened with small amounts, this time it was 2 slices of deli swiss, 2 slices bread, and just enough butter on the pan… Cheese, while I love it, is evil…

  4. laura 17 January 2009 at 9:32 am #

    For me cheese DOES cause nightmares. I didn’t know until just now when I woke up there was a debate about it (I thought it was just a me thing) I’m 25 F, and its happened consistantly for a few years now, if I have a grilled cheese before bed (this is where I noticed the trend) and it can be any cheese.. Chedder, gouda, swiss was tonights evil.. I get very vivid nightmares, ones that are hard to wake up from, usually someone trying to “murder me” and when I do wake up, the feeling lingers for a while, I always wake up terribly thirsty, so maybe dehydration has some play here.. When I was younger I would have said, no never, pizza gives me fantastic fun dreams, but now? No way will I ever do it on purpose… When I slip up, its an awful experience. Btw, it happened with small amounts, this time it was 2 slices of deli swiss, 2 slices bread, and just enough butter on the pan… Cheese, while I love it, is evil…oh, also… It usually happens within 2 hours of falling asleep.

  5. bruce smith 27 May 2009 at 11:40 am #

    If you want to have dreams, put on music from your stereo on at night when you go to bed. Leave the stereo on at low background levels, and your subconscious will kick into gear.

    I never had nightmares, but only dreams, interesting ones.

    I will try the chesse routine tonight… ;-)

  6. Natalia 19 October 2009 at 4:36 am #

    *2 slices of deli swiss, 2 slices bread, and just enough butter on the pan… Cheese, while I love it, is evil…*

    I would say, the bread is evil…

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