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April 24, 2013
Jewish World Review
Do people really get nightmares from eating late?
William Kormos, M.D.,
Medical conditions that wake you up can potentially lead to increased
recall of dreamsincluding disturbing ones.
A person who wakes up
during the dreaming phase of sleep is "closer" to the dream and will
therefore recall it more vividly. As for late-night eating directly
causing nightmares, small studies of individuals who ate immediately
before sleep have not shown a consistent relationship.
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However, nocturnal eating can interrupt your sleep in various ways,
prompting recall of disturbing dreams by the mechanism described
above. For example, eating a large meal, especially a
high-carbohydrate meal, could trigger night sweats because the body
generates heat as it metabolizes the food. Also, gastroesophageal
reflux (GERD), caused by lying down with a full stomach, may trigger
symptoms that wake you up.
Eating late also has a possible health impact unrelated to dreaming:
Increased calorie consumptionfrom eating snack foods in addition to
the day's major mealscan end in weight gain. There are certainly good
reasons to avoid nighttime foraging.
If you are suffering from nightmares, speak with your doctor about
possible causes such as your mood or new medications. A bed partner
may be able to provide additional history about your sleep habits. And
even if that midnight snack is not to blame, there are other reasons
to avoid it!
William Kormos, M.D.
Editor in Chief, Harvard Men's Health Watch
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