Think About It Thursday: Can Spicy Food Really Give You Nightmares?

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Recently, after experiencing some restless nights and some nightmarish dreams, I wondered…Did the spicy jalapenos and salsa I put on my food cause these intensely vivid dreams?

 Dr. Charles Bae, MD, a sleep medicine doctor at Sleep Disorders Center at the Cleveland Clinic explains that really “eating anything too close to bedtime can trigger more dreams, because the late night snacks increase the body’s metabolism and temperature. Heightened metabolism and temperature can lead to more brain activity, prompting more action during rapid eye movement sleep, or REM.”

Maybe the active ingredient in spicy foods, capsaicin, is to blame? Not only is the human tongue the strongest muscle in the human body relative to its size, but it is also home to the millions of microscopic receptors that make our sense of taste possible. Your tongue contains thousands of pain receptors, called VR1 receptors. When the receptors are activated by capsaicin, the sensation we experience is indelibly linked to the perception of temperature, to the feeling of eating something near the boiling point of water.  What ensues is a burning sensation, signaled by the brain, however no physical harm is done.

“It is … possible that spicy foods—or other foods such as dairy or greasy fast foods—at least occasionally induce nightmares or other bizarre dreams. It might be that some people are sensitive to the chemical composition of certain foods,” writes Tore Nielsen, director of the dream and nightmare laboratory at Sacré-Coeur Hospital in Montreal, Canada.

What do you think? Are spicy foods to blame for your intensely strange dreams?!