Posts Tagged myths

On Cheese, Sleep and Nightmares

Unlike Mike, who spends his days in a dinosaur and doctor who lined back bedroom surrounded by overly-sociable cats and DVDs of 90s kids TV, I work in an office for a living. Which means, office conversations, where office topics come up. So it means I know rather too much about Heat Magazine, Glee, Tinnie Tempah and films like ‘The Hangover’ and ‘The Hangover 2: Hangoverer’. And it also means when a standard nugget of urban myth or popular received wisdom comes up, people look in my way to dispute it.

Sometimes, that’s not too difficult – it turns out the world is in fact facing genuine climate change, and the US government were not involved in 9/11, and that dog’s CAN look up.

Still, there was one that caught me out for a little while, when a colleague of mine casually mentioned avoiding cheese before bed, so as to avoid getting nightmares. This is something that’s a real piece of received wisdom here in the UK – I’m not sure of it elsewhere in the world – but it’s something most people would have heard of. It’s the kind of thing your mum says to you, like the thing about not feeling the benefit of your coat if you wear it indoors. It’s also the kinda thing Mythbusters would look at, although it would represent a bit of a low-fi myth to bust, a bit like proving that once you pop you can actually stop if you like.

Now, I was fairly certain that it would be unlikely, as I couldn’t imagine a mechanism, but that doesn’t mean as such that it’s untrue, and I’m often wrong – probably more often than not. No, wait, that’s not right. See, I’m at it again. So I thought I’d check it out. First stop, Google, which picked up a few Daily Mail articles and the BBC Focus Magazine, the latter of which suggested:

“Any heavy meal before bed can make you spend more time in REM sleep and therefore dream more. But there is no evidence to suggest that cheese is particularly effective at causing dreams, good or bad.”

This seemed decent information, but a little obvious. How would a folk myth arise when the answer was so simple? I wasn’t sure, so I thought I’d look into it a little more. Read the rest of this entry »

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