Medical Mysteries

Choosing your own cheesy dreams

Written by Fred Hilton

Say “Cheese” and dream what you like.

It’s late at night and you’re getting sleepy. If you’re a guy, you may want vivid dreams of Angelina Jolie or another Hollywood hottie. If you’re a woman, your choices for a dream man might include George Clooney or the latest stud muffin from the movies.

According to one study, you can dictate the dream you’re going to have. If you want to dream of celebrities, eat a chunk of cheddar cheese before bedtime.

Admittedly, the source of the study—the delightfully named British Cheese Board—may be accused of cheese bias.

One purpose of the study was to refute the old saying that eating cheese at night gives you nightmares. That old wives’ tale has been around a long time. In “A Christmas Carol,” Ebenezer Scrooge blamed “a crumb” of cheese for his ghostly encounters.

In an attempt to disprove that theory, the British Cheese Board fed cheese a half-hour before bedtime to 100 male and 100 female volunteers. Each participant was assigned one of several types of British cheese.

Happily, for the cheese board, the study did not reveal cheese produced nightmares. But strangely enough, the study showed different kinds of cheese led to different dreams. For example:

Cheddar cheese produced dreams about celebrities.

Red Leicester caused dreams of nostalgia, like childhood. Lancashire cheese created dreams about work, which might be nightmares for some. Stilton cheese produced outlandish, even weird dreams, such as soldiers fighting with kittens instead of guns or a vegetarian crocodile upset that it couldn’t eat children.

Cheshire cheese didn’t produce any dreams but provided peaceful sleep.

The sleep-inducing properties of cheese likely come from tryptophan, the amino acid found in milk, chicken, turkey, and peanuts. The body uses it to produce serotonin, which can produce a stable mood and sound sleep.

“Tryptophan is known to be something which is helpful in normalizing sleep and reducing stress levels,” says Nigel White, secretary of the British Cheese Board. “That seemed to make sense to us. What was really wacky was the type of cheese people were eating seemed to give them different types of dreams.”

Stick with cheddar cheese. Dreaming of Angelina Jolie is a lot more fun than dreaming of a distraught crocodile.

“Does Eating Cheese Give You Nightmares?” by Rebecca Turner, “World of Lucid Dreaming.”,
Can Eating Cheese Really Give You Nightmares?” by Elizabeth Millard, Men’s Health, December 15, 2017. ,
“Does Eating Cheese Before Bed Give You Nightmares?” Science Alert, October 30, 2014.,
“Does cheese give you nightmares?” by Claudia Hammond, British Broadcasting Corporation, April 17, 2012.,
“Does Eating Cheese Before Bedtime Really Give You Nightmares?” by Laura Barns, “Dreams.” ,

About the author

Fred Hilton

Fred Hilton spent thirty-six years as the chief public relations officer/spokesman for James Madison University in Virginia and ten years prior as a reporter and editor for The Roanoke Times in Roanoke, Virginia. He is now happily retired in The Villages with his interior designer wife, Leta, their Cadillac Escalade golf cart, and their dog, Paris. (Yes, that makes her Paris Hilton).

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