Most of us were told by our parents or grandparents that eating cheese late in the evening would either give us nightmares or keep us awake all night. Were they right?
In 2005, the British Cheese Board were tired of the old wives’ tales and decided to put them to the test. They gave 200 volunteers 20g of various cheeses to eat 30 minutes before they were due to go to bed. No one had nightmares and most had a great night’s sleep.
One odd fact that came out of this study was that different cheeses had different effects on sleep. For example, the women who had eaten Stilton cheese reported having ‘super-crazy vivid dreams’, while those who’d eaten Red Leicester had a peaceful night, full of dreams of happy childhood memories.
“The science of that, we think, is that there is an essential amino acid in milk called tryptophan,” the secretary of the British Cheese Board, Nigel White said. “Now, tryptophan is known to be something which is helpful in normalising sleep and reducing stress levels. That seemed to make sense to us. What was really wacky was that the type of cheese that people were eating seemed to give them different types of dreams.”
Neil Stanley, the director of sleep research at the University of Surrey, found the results of this study interesting and felt it concurred with his feeling that, as cheese contained the amino acid tryptophan, a good night’s sleep after eating cheese was inevitable. Mr Stanley added that "what is particularly interesting is the reported effect different types of British cheese have on influencing the content of dreams. It seems that selecting the type of cheese you eat before bedtime may help determine the very nature of often colourful and vivid cheese induced dreams.”