Sleep tight, eat cheese for tea tonight!

Cheese lovers can sleep easy tonight, as the British Cheese Board has unveiled the results of a study which debunks the age old myth popularised in A Christmas Carol*, that eating cheese before bed gives you nightmares.

cheese and dreams

Cheese & dreams

Cheese lovers can sleep easy tonight, as the British Cheese Board has unveiled the results of a study which debunks the age old myth popularised in A Christmas Carol*, that eating cheese before bed gives you nightmares. In fact, the results indicate that cheese may even give some people a more pleasant night’s sleep!

The two week study, conducted with students from Middlesex University, looked at the effects of consuming five different British cheeses** on the quality of sleep and the content of the students’ dreams. They were also asked to consume a vegan alternative, which acted as a ‘placebo’ for the study.

When asked to describe the quality of their sleep on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 1 being unenjoyable and 10 extremely enjoyable) after eating the British cheeses, when compared to their regular sleep patterns, the average score came out at 5.9, indicating that the students had experienced a slightly more enjoyable sleep than usual. This was confirmed by the fact that the average score for the placebo on the same question was 5, suggesting that there had been no effect either way from consuming the vegan alternative.

Different varieties of British cheese also appeared to influence sleep patterns in different ways, with Red Leicester and Wensleydale leading to a perceived deeper sleep than usual, Stilton eaters reporting fewer periods of wakefulness, and those that consumed Brie claimed it was easier to fall asleep than normal.

When it comes to dreaming, the study revealed that students claimed to experience fewer dreams than they normally had – with Cheddar proving particularly inhibitive to dreams. The average score for Cheddar was just 3.5, with 1 meaning they recalled having much fewer dreams than usual, and 10 meaning they recalled having many more dreams.

Across the board, dreams were reported as more lifelike or realistic, with the most popular themes being work, family or friends. The results revealed that those who consumed Brie before bed were more likely to have abstract dreams about love and relationships, and that those who had Red Leicester were more likely to experience colourful or vivid dreams. Throughout the entire study, just six dreams out of a possible 156 were reported as being disturbing or violent (nightmares), whilst four people confessed to having erotic dreams.

Nigel White, Secretary of the British Cheese Board, commented:

“We’re pleased that our cheese and dreams study has set straight the age-old belief that eating cheese before bed provokes nightmares. We hope going forward that this will reassure the nation and encourage them to enjoy a cheesy bite before bed, with the added comfort that this is likely to lead to a good night’s sleep with enjoyable dreams, rather than a night terror. With over 700 different named British cheeses available, cheese lovers will be spoilt for choice when deciding on their cheesy evening nibble.”

Sleep expert Professor Ian Hindmarch, who supported the study, further added:

“The relationship between cheese and sleep is a particularly complex one, but it was interesting to see that the study suggested no causal relationship between eating cheese and nightmares.

“Tryptophan, one of the amino acids found in cheese, has many positive effects on mood and sleep. It could well be that the different effects of various cheeses on dreams and sleep found in this study are due directly to the effects of this substance. Overall, this study suggests that in changing the levels of tryptophan, cheese can assist in improving our mood and help to promote a good night’s sleep.”

For more information about British Cheese and the British Cheese Board please visit www.britishcheese.com or join the British Cheese Board on Facebook www.facebook.com/britishcheese  or Twitter www.twitter.com/britishcheeseuk.

 

The British Cheese Board

  • The British Cheese Board (BCB) aims to increase awareness of cheese in the UK, and cheese made by its members in particular, as part of a healthy balanced diet
  • BCB members account for a significant proportion of cheese produced in the UK.  The work of the BCB is also supported by associate members who are involved in the cheese supply chain.
  • Find out more at the British Cheese Board (BCB) (www.britishcheese.com)

The Cheese and Dreams study

  • The study took place during May 2014, and asked 25 students from Middlesex University to consume 30g portions of five different British cheeses on alternate nights an hour before going to bed, plus a placebo- a vegan, non-dairy alternative
  • The study questionnaire was devised in consultation with sleep expert Professor Ian Hindmarch
  • The cheese samples were labelled A-F for students so that they would not know which one was which
  • Students were asked to avoid large quantities of alcohol or consumption of other cheeses during the study

*In A Christmas Carol, Scrooge blamed his nightmare on eating “a crumb of cheese” before bed. Scrooge tried to dismiss his ghostly nighttime visitor by commenting: “You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!”

** The five British cheeses used in the study were: Mature Cheddar, Blue Stilton, Red Leicester, Wensleydale with Cranberries and Somerset Brie (plus the placebo)

 

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