On my first night in Paris, I woke my travel buddy with my writhing, kicking, mumbling, and cold sweats. It was the cheese dreams.
We’d arrived in France the afternoon prior, and I wasted no time in finding a charming café to go full Liz Lemon and devour a fist-sized ball of fresh, soft cheese. After a night of horrifying, maniacal nightmares, I completely believed the anecdote that cheese can mess with your dreams.
Science is less certain about cheese’s role in your nocturnal craziness, but there are signs that point to its ability to influence your brain. Cosmos recently looked into the question, and found that yes, certain properties of cheese could impact brain function. The amino acid tryptophan in cheese particularly can be processed into serotonin, a sleep aid. (Anyone who’s passed out following a Thanksgiving turkey lunch knows this to be true.)
While scientific research into the actual content of your dreams following cheese consumption is scarce, there exists one 2005 study from the British Cheese Board that asked participants to eat a small amount of one type of cheese 30 minutes before bed each night for a week, then record their dreams in the morning. The results, as summarized by Cosmos: “83 percent of the participants that ate red Leicester had pleasant dreams, with 60 percent of dreams being about fond childhood memories. Cheddar, on the other hand, led to dreams about celebrities while Cheshire led to no dreams more than half of the time.”
The study doesn’t seem to prove an ironclad, conclusive link between cheese and nightmares, especially because these cheese-dream journalers mostly had pleasant dreams while I was haunted by grotesque childhood fears and murderous pursuers. The BBC’s science expert Claudia Hammond looked into the purported link a few years ago, finding that disturbed sleep following a night of cheese bingeing could simply be the result of indigestion.
My travel buddy, upon hearing my “this is my brain on cheese” hypothesis, reminded me that it could have been the result of insane jet lag or perhaps the four-ish glasses of wine I also consumed the night before. I’m preferring to cling to my perceived cheese-nightmare link, and, like a Gremlin, only consume massive quantities of dairy before dark. Science, back me up.