Every night while we sleep our subconscious takes us on a wild ride through dreamland. As it turns out, how the brain interprets stimuli before dozing off and mid-snooze can actually affect not only sleep quality but the content of dreams themselves. From specific foods to sleeping positions, studies show a number of seemingly random things can influence your shut-eye. Grab that dream journal—we’re sharing five surprising things that can affect your dreams.
Vitamin B-6 Supplements
Heightened dreaming is often listed as a potential side effect of increased B-6 intake, with studies reporting more vivid, more bizarre and more colorful dreams than control nights without the vitamin. While a dose of vitamin B-6 before bed could enhance your ability to recall dreams in better detail after waking, too much B-6 may increase the intensity of dreams so much that sleep and comfortable dreaming become out of reach. (If you choose to take any supplement, be sure to consult with your doctor to make sure it’s safe for you!).
A study conducted by the British Cheese Board found that there was a link between wild dreams and consuming cheese right before bed! Interestingly, the study found that different cheeses appeared to give participants different types of dreams. Those who ate cheddar cheese tended towards dreams about celebrities, while those who reached for blue cheese reported more bizarre dreams. Still dreaming of your ex? Could be the Red Leicester.
Hunger pains and blood sugar drops can keep the brain mentally alert, leading to unnecessary wake-ups throughout the night. What’s more, sleep studies conducted by Dr. J. Catesby Ware, Ph.D. at Eastern Virginia Medical School showed that hungry patients almost always dreamed about food! Find yourself regularly dreaming of a juicy steak or matcha chocolate chip cookies? Try having a light snack before bed to counter this effect, but be sure to skip fatty and spicy foods which can lead to indigestion and keep you up for other reasons.
External sounds and smells
Sudden sounds and smells that are strong enough for the brain to register, yet too soft to rouse you from sleep can have a profound effect on dreams. Instead of waking up to the sound of your roommate coming home or cooking bacon in the morning, you just might incorporate those stimuli into your dream.
Researchers suspect that sleep position—whether you snooze on your back, belly, or side—can affect what you dream about. In a study, left-side sleepers had significantly more nightmares than right-side sleepers who reported more peaceful dreams, while stomach sleeping was associated with some of the sexiest dreams.