Does Eating Before Bed Cause Nightmares? The Science Behind Fact or ...Fiction?

When it comes to eating before bed, many people have the assumption that it can cause nightmares. It is commonly stated that cheese before bed can induce terrifying dreams.

As a result, it is only natural to wonder whether there is some truth to this, or whether it is actually just nonsense. After all, if you can avoid having nightmares, this is always better than experiencing them!

In this article, we will be delving into the science behind nightmares and eating before bed, to uncover whether this thought is fact or fiction.

Does eating before bed cause nightmares?

Whether or not eating before bed causes nightmares is something that many scientists have researched and debated over a number of years. However, the vast majority agree that eating before bed is unlikely to cause nightmares.

Many studies have been conducted on people who have eaten before bed, and others that haven’t, to see whether or not the food increases the chances of nightmares. Overall, there seems to be no real scientific evidence of data to state explicitly that it does.

As a result, it is unlikely that you will lose out on a good night’s sleep due to nightmares. This means that you can happily eat your midnight snack without having to worry.

eating before bed is causing your body to do more work as you sleep

However, in general, it is typically not the most sensible idea to eat food before bed because you are not allowing your body the chance to start the digestive process. This can have a knock on effect on your health in some ways, such as bloating, indigestion and heartburn - all of which are unpleasant to experience.

As eating before bed is causing your body to do more work as you sleep, it is more likely that you will experience an interrupted night’s sleep. In some instances, this can lead people to assume that it was the food that has caused a nightmare. However, this is not entirely true.

If your body wakes up during the stage of sleep where you are dreaming, this typically means that you can remember what has happened, be that good or bad. If you wake up during the phase of sleep where you are sleeping lightly, you won’t remember what you are dreaming about.

If your sleep has been interrupted through the night, this allows your brain to be more aware of what you are dreaming about, especially if the dream was a nightmare.

Interestingly, one study did state that dairy products potentially do lead to an increase in nightmares due to the way in which the body reacts to it. However, there is no definitive proof that states this. Even so, it is likely that this is where the thoughts that cheese before bed can give you nightmares originates!

Other types of food that are often associated with giving a person nightmares are sugar and spicy foods. When it comes to sugar, this does raise the blood sugar of the body, which can have an effect on a person’s sleep. Sugar can potentially disrupt sleep, which in turn will make a person wake up more often.

Sugar can potentially disrupt sleep; man snacking on couch before sleep watching TV

When it comes to spicy foods, they are linked to irritating the digestive system, which again, can have a negative effect on the body and how well a person sleeps. Given this, it is always sensible to not eat spicy or sugary foods right before bed.

Ideally, you will want to stop eating a few hours before you plan to go to sleep to give your body the best chance of having a good night’s rest. By doing this, you will be less likely to wake up during the dream state of sleep, and you will be unlikely to remember a nightmare, even if you had one.

What causes nightmares?

Given that food is not really a cause for nightmares, you may be left wondering what is. In the vast majority of cases, nightmares are caused by internal thoughts. If there is something that you are subconsciously thinking or worrying about, this will often present itself in a dream.

This is your brain's way of working through the thoughts you were having as a way of dealing with them. If you are having negative or fearful thoughts, these can translate into your dreams. If you then happen to way up during the dream, you will be more likely to remember what it was about.

People who suffer with different mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression, will also be more likely to suffer from nightmares, especially if they are dealing with negative thoughts. This is why it is important to speak to your doctor if you are experiencing any of the symptoms associated with any mental health conditions.

Stress is another big factor that can contribute to a person having many, or recurring nightmares. As a result, it is always best to open up about the stress you are feeling, instead of internalizing it. From here, you will be able to find coping mechanisms and strategies that can help you to deal with the stress you are experiencing, and any negative thoughts that are accompanying it.


We hope you have found this article insightful and useful. As you can see, there is no real scientific evidence that clearly states that nightmares can be directly linked to eating before bed. However, eating before bed does tend to have an effect on the body in general.

If you are eating before bed, you will be more likely to have interrupted or disturbed sleep, which can then lead you to wake up during a dream or nightmare. This is why many people assume that it is the food that has caused the nightmare, when in fact, it has led to disturbed sleep.

In the vast majority of cases, nightmares can be linked to mental health and stress. As a result of this, if this is something you are experiencing and suffering from, we would encourage you to seek advice from your doctor for ways in which you can manage this.