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.