Does eating ice cream before bed give you nightmares?

September 15, 2011

This is a tricky question. It’s considered an “old wives tale” that dates back many years. If you asked my grandmother this question, you’d get a decisive “yes.”

The easy answer is that it might.

Eating before you go to sleep can cause the body’s metabolism to shift, which in turn increases brain activity. If you consume anything with caffeine, such as tea, coffee or chocolate, there may be even more increased brain activity, which in turn might signal a nightmare.

I’ve noticed that if I have peanut butter on toast or celery, I tend to have very vivid, not-so-nice dreams. If I have any kind of candy before bed, I know I’m in for a restless night – not so much in the way of nightmares, but the sugar keeps me up and also keeps me from having a sound sleep.

However, you might notice that when you don’t eat anything prior to bedtime, you may have nightmares or restless sleep. This might indicate a sleeping disorder of some kind – sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome or insomnia. Our specialists at the Washington University Sleep Medicine Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital are experts in determining what might be keeping you up at night.

However, if you do see a link to eating certain foods before you go to sleep, just make sure you have them directly after dinner, or at least a few hours prior to your head hitting the pillow. You may just see a decrease in your bad dreams.


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Category: Neurology & Neurosurgery

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