Curejoy Expert Janardhana Hebbar Explains:
Does Eating Before Bed Cause Nightmares?
The first thing you wake up thinking is “Was that a thief chasing you all through your house with a hammer?” And then, your next thought is “Why was it even happening?” Sounds familiar, right? So, what causes these nightmares?
“When you eat something before going to bed it boosts metabolism and temperature”,according to Cleveland’s Clinic Disorder Center. It tends to generally increase brain activity which results in nightmares.
The Science of Sleep
When you sleep, your brain continues to remain active. Now, there are 5 stages of the sleep cycle starting from non-REM (Rapid eye movement) sleep and REM sleep. There are 3 stages of NREM sleep, where some slight visual images might occur. During this stage, the body regrows and repairs tissues, builds bone and immune system.
After this, you enter the REM stage, where dreaming or nightmares occur. This stage occurs around 90 minutes after you fall asleep. It is generally during this stage where your brain is most active. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, sleep is influenced by neurotransmitter signals in your brain, so anything that affects your brain chemistry, including food, medication, and addictive substances like nicotine can affect your REM sleep, which in turn affects dreaming.
Foods That Cause Nightmares
Now what we eat may affect our nighttime rest, if not directly cause bad dreams. A small study published in the International Journal of Psycho-Physiology had a group of healthy men eat spicy meals before bed on some evenings and compared their quality of sleep on nights where they had non-spiced meals.
On the nights they had spicy foods, they took more time to fall asleep and had disturbed sleep. Spicy food can elevate body temperatures and thus disrupt sleep. This may also be the reason why some people report bad dreams when they eat too close to bedtime. Though few studies have researched on it, eating close to bedtime increases metabolism and brain activity and may prompt bad dreams or nightmares. Although, the exact reason for nightmares has not yet been fully established, this may be one cause of disrupted sleep.
However, it is advisable to maintain a 90 minutes gap between your last meal and sleep, for better digestion and undisturbed sleep.