While it’s widely accepted that certain types of cheese can induce dreams in most people, the influence of cheese depends on several factors, such as the age and type of cheese eaten, how much is eaten and the delay between eating the cheese and falling asleep. There are of course also many other wider influences such as what other foods or drinks have been eaten, the dreamer’s physiological and psychological make-up and where and how they are sleeping.
So how can cheese influence the dreams in your head? Cheese contains naturally high levels of an amino acid called Tryptophan. It is from Tryptophan that our brains manufacture the chemical Serotonin which is vital for our well-being and mental stability. Tryptophan can be bought in natural food stores for the treatment of symptoms of depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder and Pre-Menstrual Tension as well as helping with relaxation, restfulness, and a good night’s sleep.
While it is true then that some cheeses contain nutrients which might aid sleep, it is not the only thing since there are also many other foods which contain Tryptophan from chicken and turkey to certain fishes and most other dairy products.
The main reason why cheese seems to affect our dreams is down to the beautiful bacterial cultures in cheese. From every cheese and dream lover’s empirical experience, the more ripe, mature or mouldy the cheese, the more memorable, vivid, bizarre or convoluted the dream. Most people would cite blue cheese such as Roquefort, Blue Monday or Gorgonzola or mould ripened or washed-rind cheeses such as Epoisses or Stinking Bishop as having the biggest impact as opposed to mild cheddars or young hard cheeses such as an Edam.
These bluer and stinkier cheeses can contain relatively high amounts of certain biologically active compounds which occur as by-products of bacterial or fungal metabolism. These compounds include some amines which can have psychoactive properties, including tryptamine (chemically related to tryptophan) and tyramine which have been isolated from a number of cheeses and occur in highest quantities in highly matured cheeses.