One of the last things we do in the evening before heading to bed is eat. You’ve probably all heard of cheese before bed giving you vivid dreams, and it’s not a myth!
There’s a whole load of other things to eat that can enhance your dreams and sleep as well. If you want to make the most of your dreams, it makes sense that you should consider what foods might be best to end your day on.
It’s important that you have something substantial, not just for the sake of your health but also for the sake of your dreams. Going without food can cause low blood sugar. Low blood sugar can cause you to feel more tired, and even give you more vivid dreams, but not the dreams you want. Lack of food might cause you to have nightmares, so a hearty meal is a better option for those who want a stress free night.
Digestion can also impact your sleep, so it’s important to choose foods that wont keep you up all night with digestion difficulties. A decent night’s rest, and the dreams that come with it, are going to involve steering clear from things like alcohol or spicy foods.
Going to bed directly after you’ve eaten can also cause digestive problems, you should leave around two hours between your meal and when you lie down. Just enough time for a game or some TV, whatever you do to pass the evenings.
So what makes food good for our sleep? Without boring you too much, the answer lies in tryptophan – an amino acid. Tryptophan is already naturally produced in our bodies but certain foods can increase its production.
Tryptophan then in turn produces serotonin (a chemical you’ve probably heard of) and 5-HTP (less well known but equally as important). These all help regulate moods and maintain healthy sleeping patterns, and with improved sleep comes improved dreams. Eating the right things can enhance your rest and save you from needing to buy any supplements, but what foods are best?
Starting off with the one you were probably expecting to see: cheese. All dairy products are relatively high in tryptophan but cheese in particular is known for improving dreams.
Tryptophan also more effectively produces serotonin when combined with carbs, so a cheesy lasagne or a classic mac and cheese could be the best way to make the most it’s night time effects. Cheddar cheese has the most tryptophan but then edam has also been known to induce some pretty wacky dreams.
You’ve probably all heard of fish referred to as ‘brain food’ and it really does help with your brain health, including memory. You could extend it’s uses to the night time, and use it help you remember your dreams.
It’s also full of the B6 vitamin, which is of course good for you, but also another natural enhancer of dreams, so there’s really no downside to this food.
There’s no one type of fish you should be eating, they’re all pretty good, but salmon is particularly high in tryptophan. Fish is something that is more beneficial the more regularly you have it though, so one fish finger probably isn’t going to do much.
Nuts can actually be incredibly for you, and your dreams, if you don’t have them coated in too much salt or flavoring that is. All nuts contain pretty much the same health benefits, but if you’re looking for one specifically to help your dreams, pistachio nuts have the highest levels of tryptophan.
Almonds, cashews and peanuts, whilst not as high as pistachios in terms of tryptophan, also contain magnesium. A quality of magnesium is that it helps your muscles relax, which is obviously something that we need when we’re trying to get to sleep.
Rice, particularly brown rice, is good for dreams and can also be a substantial meal. Being a carbohydrate, this also means the tryptophan it provides is more easily converted to serotonin which as you know is going to help you feel happier and sleep easier. An added bonus is that its one of the main foods that can combat depression.
Rice also helps your body to produce melatonin, a hormone that regulates your body clock. By having a healthier sleep pattern and going to bed at regular times you’re more likely to make the most of the time you spend resting.
It also contains the vitamins B1 and B3, which help with brain function and energy levels. With regulated energy levels you feel less stressed and more likely sleep easy without anything bearing down on your mind. As for brain function, like we’ve already seen with fish, this doesn’t just help your sleep but also your dreams. With improved brain function you’re more likely to remember dreams and also have more vivid dreams!
There’s debates as to whether or not chocolate actually does help with sleep and dreaming, especially as you never really know what’s in it nowadays. The real benefits lie in chocolate that has real cacao in it’s recipe.
If it gives you indigestion obviously it might interrupt your sleep, but chocolate is known for having calming effects on the mind due to high levels of magnesium and calcium. It’s true that chocolate can cure a bad mood as it releases endorphins in the brain, making you feel happier and less stressed. A calm mind makes for a good sleep. I’m sure you’ve all spent nights tossing and turning as a result of stress, and chocolate really can help!
Dreams are also more likely to have more positive content if you’re feeling happier, so a bit of chocolate before bed might be good for more than just a moment on the lips.
A more healthy option than chocolate, bananas are high in tryptophan and also magnesium and potassium. This means it’s particularly good for regulating your heart rate (something important when trying to get to sleep) and relaxing your muscles.
Like rice, they also naturally increase your melatonin levels, so not only are you more likely to sleep through until morning, but you’re also more likely to go to bed at a reasonable time, no matter how tempting that video game might look. You’ll feel tired at a time that will maximise your rest, if you give in to sleep that is.
Most meats contain high levels of tryptophan but the ones most effective for enhancing your sleep or dreams are mainly turkey and chicken. Have you ever had a huge roast dinner and struggled to stay awake after? That’d be the tryptophan.
Like fish, other meats also contain the vitamin B6, which causes energy levels to rise. It can cause an energy crash, blood sugar levels rise, particularly if we’ve eaten a big meal, and then we crash out when that drops. We sleep well when we’re full, particularly after eating meat.
If you’re a vegetarian, vegan, or just not overly fond of meat, soy products and substitutes can give you almost the same protein and tryptophan as turkey or chicken can. It can even be slightly better for you, having low calories and containing no cholesterol, it’s kinder on the hips and good for your heart.
The protein in eggs is what helps boost tryptophan levels, particularly the yokes of eggs. Eggs are also a good thing to try alongside other foods with high levels of tryptophan, particularly foods that don’t contain any protein. So for example, as weird as it might sound, eggs and bananas can be a really effective way to enhance your dreams.
Mainly because the B6 in bananas is what converts tryptophan into serotonin. The combination of the egg’s tryptophan and protein with the banana’s B6, magnesium, potassium and more tryptophan could make for the perfect nights sleep, and perhaps more to the point, better REM.
Another healthy fruit option for the list is cherries. They are a natural source of melatonin, so help you sleep better and regulate your body clock. They’re a better and cheaper option than melatonin supplements, as they’re nicer to eat, easier to buy and don’t come with any side effects – other than additional health benefits.
They’re good for your heart and your brain, even helping with memory, something important for dream recall. So basically, if you’re wanting to make the most of your sleep, it’s worth watching what you eat.
Tryptophan can found in so many different foods so it’s not like you’re limited for choice either. The qualities of some foods might complement the qualities of others, so it’s worth figuring out what combinations work for you – you might find that the strangest combinations give you the strangest dreams!