Wednesday, September 17, 2014

How Does Food Influence Our Dreams?

Will tonight's cheese plate give you crazy dreams? We enlisted Dr. Gary Wenk, author of Your Brain on Food, to help us figure out the link between diet and dreaming.


Google “food and dreams,” and the results will convince you that everything from cheese to chicken tikka masala is a catalyst for memorable dreaming. Internet lore abounds, resulting in a kind of reverse-placebo effect: Suddenly, any dream—good or bad—can be traced back to that evening’s meal. The proof is, well, in the pudding. Or is it?

“Everyone who is going to read this is going to have an anecdotal story about something they’ve eaten affecting their dreams,” says Dr. Gary Wenk. Wenk is a professor of Psychology & Neuroscience at the Ohio State University and Medical Center, and the author of Your Brain on Food, which discusses how a person’s diet influences brain functioning. We enlisted his help to answer our questions on food and dreaming.

Wenk continues, “Is what I ate for dinner tonight going to influence my dreams? The answer is almost universally going to be no.”

Yes, it’s a rather anticlimactic answer, but one with some major footnotes and concessions. Although there appears to be no real formulaic, empirical connection between our day-to-day intake of food and its impact on our dreams, there is a link: One that’s deeply personal, encompassing not only our history with certain foods, but also our genetic makeup.

Below, we explore a plausible relationship between food, sleep, and dreams, uncovering some intriguing facts along the way.

Active and Hungry: The Brain While Dreaming

Dreams can actually happen in several different phases of sleep, one of which is “slow-wave sleep,” a stage of deep rest where heart rate and breathing drop to low levels. During this time, your body also starts releasing hormones, which not only help metabolize food you’ve just eaten, but also assist in healing a tired body that’s been awake for the entire day.

For the rest of the story:

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