Nightmares become less common as we grow up but some people may experience more bad dreams than others. Dreams of being chased by demons, falling from a building, getting trapped somewhere or a death of loved one can be distressing for people. They not only interrupt sleep but also increase stress levels, making one feel miserable. One could also experience frequent nightmares on a particular day. The reasons could range from stress to spicy or high-fat food at dinner time. Many a time having a glass of water could bring people some relief from distressing dreams. Health experts, however, suggest eating certain foods and avoiding others at night to reduce chances of nightmares. (Also read: Experts on surprising causes of frequent nightmares)
“Nightmares can be distressing and disruptive to our sleep patterns, causing us to wake up feeling anxious and uneasy. While there are many factors that can contribute to nightmares, including stress, anxiety, medication, and sleep disorders, our diet can also play a role in influencing our dream content,” says Dt. Ankita Ghoshal Bisht, Dietician in-charge, Primus Super Speciality Hospital, New Delhi. (Also read: What is lucid dreaming; 5 amazing benefits and facts that will blow your mind)
“While there is no clear evidence linking specific foods to nightmares, there are certain foods and beverages that can disrupt your sleep and increase the likelihood of experiencing nightmares,” says Sameena Ansari – Senior Dietitian & Nutritionist, CARE Hospitals, Hi-Tec City, Hyderabad.
Ankita Ghoshal Bisht and Sameena Ansari share foods to eat and avoid to prevent nightmares with HT Digital.
Foods to eat to prevent nightmares
1. Complex carbohydrates: Eating complex carbohydrates before bed can help to stabilise blood sugar levels, which can reduce the likelihood of nightmares. Good sources of complex carbs include whole-grain bread, brown rice, and sweet potatoes.
2. Calcium-rich foods: Calcium has been found to have a calming effect on the body, so consuming foods that are rich in calcium before bed can help to reduce the risk of nightmares. Good sources of calcium include milk, yogurt, cheese, and leafy greens like spinach and kale.
3. Tryptophan-rich foods: Tryptophan is an amino acid that helps to promote sleep and relaxation. Foods that are high in tryptophan include turkey, chicken, fish, eggs, nuts, and seeds.
4. Vitamin B6: Vitamin B6 helps the body to produce serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that is involved in regulating sleep. Foods that are high in vitamin B6 include bananas, nuts, poultry, fish, and whole grains.
5. Herbal teas: Drinking a cup of chamomile, valerian root, or lavender tea before bedtime can promote relaxation and improve sleep quality.
Foods to avoid to prevent nightmares
1. Alcohol: Consuming alcohol before bed can disrupt sleep patterns and lead to nightmares. Alcohol has been found to increase the amount of time spent in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is the stage of sleep associated with dreaming.
2. Spicy foods: Eating spicy foods before bed can increase body temperature and heart rate, which can lead to disrupted sleep and nightmares.
3. Caffeine: Caffeine is a stimulant that can disrupt sleep patterns and lead to nightmares. It’s best to avoid caffeine-containing foods and drinks like coffee, tea, and chocolate in the hours leading up to bedtime.
4. High-fat foods: Eating high-fat foods before bed can lead to indigestion and discomfort, which can disrupt sleep and lead to nightmares. It’s best to avoid heavy, greasy meals in the evening and opt for lighter, healthier options instead.
5. Sugary foods: Consuming high-sugar foods before bedtime can cause a rapid rise in blood sugar levels, leading to disrupted sleep and nightmares.