"Why do you doubt your senses?" "Because," said Scrooge, "a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There's more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!"
Alice is enjoying a late meal of a triple-decker hot link (sausage) sandwich before bed. Bob warns her (for what is usually not the first time) that it's only going to give her indigestion and Bad Dreams. Alice blows him off and chows down. I think you can guess what happens that night. Well, it isn't that. (Or for that matterthat!)
As it turns out, some foods may well give you nightmares.
A variant of the Mushroom Samba commonly found in Sit Coms and cartoons. Despite the superficially similar name, probably won't take you to an Acid Trip Dimension. Not to be confused with Nutritional Nightmare.
Truth in Television, as anyone who's eaten at D'Leon's after dark will tell you.
open/close all folders
Averted in the first Yu-Gi-Oh! movie. When Pegasus wakes up from a nightmare involving the Egyptian God Cards, he at first blames it on the wine spritzer he had before going to bed. But he quickly realizes it probably had a deeper meaning.
This actually drives part of the plot in Gene Luen Yang's Loyola Chin and the San Peligran Order. The title character starts experimenting with the sorts of dreams she gets from eating odd combinations of foods, which leads to her encounter with Saint Danger of the titular San Peligran Order.
In the ScroogeMcDuck comic The Dream of a Lifetime by Don Rosa, the Beagle Boys invade Scrooge's dreams to steal the door combinations to his money bin's vault. When the dreams (all recollections from Scrooge's adventurous past) get too wild for them they pin it down to pre-bedtime meals.
In an early Sonic the Hedgehog issue, Sonic chows down on one too many chili dogs and dreams he's "Sonic the Chili Dog", his fellow Freedom Fighters are condiments and Robotnik was a hamburger. When he comes to, he vows not to eat anymore chili dogs... which he breaks five seconds later.
The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers had a story where the trio break into a prison to free a friend. There's lots of high-body-count mayhem, and when Fat Freddy gets swarmed and beaten by hundreds of police, we see he's dreaming and his two friends are angrily swatting him with a rolled-up newspaper for eating all two dozen hashish-laced cookies they'd baked for a party. Then, in a much muchlater story, the wake-up scene is repeated, implying everything that happened in that 12-year span was him dreaming!
One issue of the Mirage Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic, done by guest artist Matt Howarth, features all the Turtles and Splinter having odd dreams but only Donatello's count as an Acid Reflux Nightmare After eating an entire bag of chocolate chip cheese cookies he falls asleep and dream he and his brothers and captured by the Feds and are subjected to nefarious tests and tortures meanwhile a government file regarding them is stolen and sold to a Hollywood director who exploits it for his own gain via cartoons and toys (A not so subtle Take That To the original cartoon) eventually the Turtles become prisoners of their own fame and lay around watching TV all day getting lazy and fat, Don then wakes up screaming "Teenage Couch Potato Turtles!"
Jokingly referenced in Cerebus the Aardvark rather than used. In Guys, Cerebus has an alcohol-induced nightmare involving Roaring Rick Veitch and his Rare-Bit Fiends. This is a parody of Veitch's actual comic/dream journal Roarin' Rick's Rare Bit Fiends, which was based off Winsor McCay's comic strip Dreams of a Rarebit Fiend, whose title referenced the notion that eating too much Welsh rarebit would cause nightmares.
A couple of times in The Look Alike Series by Canadibrit, a particularly noxious pizza is mentioned (so bad, Quinn slaps a Biohazard symbol on the pizza box). In the spin-off and Harry Potter crossover Harry Potter And The Flak Jacket Mafia, this gets amplified when it is revealed that AP ate one with blue (as in ergot-laden) garlic and spent the next little while thinking he was a lemming.
In Lucy Maud Montgomery's The Story Girl, the aimless child heroes of the narrative decide to record their dreams for a summer, and begin to deliberately eat rich food before going to bed so that they dream as vividly and crazily as possible. As a by-product, none of them sleep well and they're all cranky and irritable when awake (except for the Big Eater of the group.) When the appointed loser of the group accidentally poisons herself, (she lives) the children's doctor bans them from doing it.
In one story by Ephraim Kishon. Which leads to a row with his wife, and the next time he dreams of Freudwho tells him not to eat heavy food before sleeping. Too late!
Tarzan experiences one after eating some bad meat in the short story "The Nightmare" in Jungle Tales of Tarzan.
Live Action TV
In a post-2002 Hallowe'en episode of The Basil Brush Show involved Basil eating cheese before going to bed and dreaming that the human characters were turning into vampires and they were all trying to get him.
A Thanksgiving episode of The Bernie Mac Show has Bernie getting these after eating undercooked turkey.
An episode of The Big Bang Theory ended with Leonard waking up from a dream about Sheldon reproducing (by prokaryotic fission!) and deciding "That's it, no more Thai food."
Which was also a Brick Joke referring to the events previous in the episode where Howard said he thought Sheldon would reproduce by eating so much Thai food (one of their frequent takeout choices) that he would split into two.
Another, using the same setup, ended with Cliff giving birth to a 7-foot-long hoagie and a bottle of soda.
Dad's Army had an episode where Captain Mainwaring has a dream that he is Napoleon after Waterloo and Sergent Wilson is the Duke of Wellington, among others.
One episode of Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. involved both Gomer and the sergeant suffering this after eating Welsh rabbit. While the nature of the nightmare is a fairly tame example - Gomer and the sergeant exchange personalities - what drives it Up to Eleven is the fact that they wind up sleepwalking and acting it out for real.
Speaking of Henson, a Sesame Street sketch had Cookie Monster sleeping over with Ernie and having a nightmare about singing cookies.
During Season 2 of the The Sopranos, Tony eats some bad shellfish and has an extremely long dream sequence where he finally admits to himself that his friend Big Pussy (in the form of a talking fish) has become a federal informant. When he wakes up, he acts on this information and murders Pussy.
Winsor McCay's Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend was an entire newspaper strip about nothing but Acid Reflux Nightmares. Rarebit, (or rabbit) incidentally, is spicy cheese sauce spread on toast; there's a folkloric link between eating cheese before going to bed and nightmares.
McCay's strip would later be the inspiration for Rick Veitch's comic book/dream journal Roarin' Rick's Rare Bit Fiends, which in turn was parodied in Cerebus the Aardvark.
The Little Nemo strips would also sometimes end with Nemo's mother attributing his bad dreams to eating before bed.
The entire premise of the Nintendo DS game Garfield's Nightmare is that Garfield chowed down on way too much food before bed (actually normal for Garfield to overeat), and in his dream, he has an adventure across multiple dream worlds. Eventually, he escapes the nightmare world and comes up with a moral. The food theme continues throughout the nightmare.
In TimeSplitters 2, one of the arcade league missions is that a member of the Chicago Mafia who severed the hands of his victims ate too much cheese and dreamt that the severed hands came to life (With bodies made of matchsticks)and tried to kill him.
In the 2011 release of You Don't Know Jack, the "Nocturnal Admissions" questions would have Cookie tell the player about some crazy dream he had from eating before bed, which always seems to involve him, his cats and his mother acting out the plot of whatever movie he'd been watching earlier that night, which the player would have to guess.
In College Roomies from Hell!!!, Mike wakes up one morning with a tentacle. He insists violently that it is really just a pizza-induced dream. Unfortunately for him...
The first Narbonic "Dave In Slumberland" strip ends with Dave waking at his desk and blaming the rarebit he had for lunch (since it's a parody of McCay.)
Played with in Everyman HYBRID. Part of Evan's dream experiment involves eating various foods before bed. Pizza and hot wings don't do much, as he just dreams about a picnic with his grandmother. Grilled chicken and doritos causes him to not remember his dreams. A healthy meal causes him to dream of roller coasters. Chicken salad, water, and fruit cause him to dream of a town of children, all of whom disappear. He then dreams he's in the woods, where he hears children screaming. He also finds hanging bags full of blood. Of course, the dream comes true a few days later, suggesting Slender Man was at work...
In Garfield and Friends, Jon tells this to Garfield, who has a dream where he keeps eating and growing bigger. Doesn't seem bad to Garfield, until at the end an alien abducts him and reveals that a "hunger ray" was used on him to fatten Garfield up for "alien thanksgiving". He wakes up and refuses to eat a plate of lasagna. Then eats it anyway.
Similarly, in the children's book "Garfield's Cat Nap", Garfield eats a slice of pizza as a midnight snack to indulge himself after being given only a salad for dinner. He then has a dream about an unpleasant future where all the TV sets play only exercise shows and the food comes in pill form. Kind of a subversion of the above example, in that when Garfield wakes up, he's thankful for all the normal food he can eat.
In an episode of Hey Arnold!, Helga ends up sleepwalking after eating pork rinds before bed. Twice she finds herself waking up at Arnold's house, the third time she ends up in Arnold's shower, and the fourth time she almost confesses her love for him. For Helga, that's definitely a nightmare!
In The Angry Beavers episode "Food of the Clods," Norbert's mix of spicy foods and cheesy fictional B Movies causes him to become a violent sleepwalker who acts out those movies. After Norb becomes a rampaging pseudo-Valkyrie after watching Viking Women from Venus, Daggett decides to fight fire with fire... except Dag accidentally becomes a flamboyant Latin American dancer after watching a commercial for a "weight loss through limbo dancing" program.
The Peanuts special What a Nightmare, Charlie Brown was based on this trope. Too much pizza before bedtime, combined with his owner accusing him of being "overly civilized", causes Snoopy to dream of living the hard life of a Yukon sled dog.
Also in the episode where Homer eats Police Chief Wiggum's "Guatemalan insanity pepper" chili. A bit hazy on the borderline between "nightmare" and "hallucination", but Homer does wake up at the end of his trippy journey through his subconscious (featuring Johnny Cash as the voice of his spirit advisor).
"A Glass of Warm Ed" featured Ed sleepwalking hilarious distances through the neighborhood. While it is uncertain if eating before bed caused this, as he sleepwalks Ed eats virtually everything in his path, from regular foods to Edd's cactus to Jimmy (who is thrown up later).
It then became a real nightmare for Edd and Eddy, who, for some reason, were the target of children's payback.
Also referenced in "Dueling Eds", which opens with a kung fu school scam, where Eddy uses a mirror trick to make it look like he's created copies of himself. Of course, Jonny was awake at the time, but still.
Jonny: I think I'm reliving that expired tofu, Plank.
It was sort of subverted with Mandy's dream, a parody of the A Night on Bald Mountain sequence from Fantasia, as she was in place of Chernabog. It probably would have been a nightmare for anyone but Mandy. (When she wakes up, she even eats the last piece of the pizza.)
At the end of the Family Guy episode "Love Thy Trophy," after overindulging on pancakes, Stewie has a Trainspotting-esque nightmare where he sees himself crawling on the ceiling of his room.
Yellow Submarine - Frankenstein's monster rises from a lab table, gulps down some serum in a test tube, starts to quake, then, BOOM - turns into John Lennon.
John: Hey Ringo, I just had the strangest dream.
Ringo: I warned you about eating on an empty stomach.
An Irish Young Scientist Exhibition stand once concluded that eating cheese before bed did cause nightmares, even though the students behind the stand were skeptical of the saying from the outset.
As discussed on QI, cheese purportedly gives one good dreams, or at least a good night's sleep, due to its concentration of milk's tryptophan content. Tryptophan is the amino acid that is associated with the myth of causing sleepiness after Thanksgiving dinner, as it's a major component of serotonin, the feel-good neurotransmitter of the year. In the interest of full disclosure, the study in which this was discovered was sponsored by the British Cheese Board.
In the Middle Ages, rye bread was often contaminated with the ergot fungus. Eating this before going to sleep is similar to going to sleep after taking LSDnote not a coincidence; LSD is derived from ergot and can cause some fairly horrific nightmares.
Really, eating ergot-contaminated bread at any time is going to mess you up.
No wonder they were worried about demons and witches.
The Salem Witch Trials were thought to have been brought on in part by grain contaminated by ergot.
If you actually suffer from acid reflux and get it while you're sleeping (which is pretty much inevitable), you may have strange dreams based on the pain and nausea before finally waking up.
Even if you have bad or strange dreams no more often than usual, sleeping poorly thanks to indigestion could make you more likely to remember them.