Here’s a burning question: does consuming spicy foods cause bad dreams? The dream world is a fascinating place. There’s a reason why our brains dream while we sleep. It is not random foolishness. When we dream, our brains are thinking on a deeper, more insightful level than when we are awake. When a brain goes into REM sleep, the functions that are normally in control during wakeful hours switch off and our brain’s creative function takes over. If you sleep restfully, deeply, you probably won’t remember your dreams. But those who sleep poorly often recall the other-worldly events of a dream.
What you eat can predetermine how well you sleep and, consequently, what you recall when waking. Turkey consumption tends to increase the number of dreams. Some amino acids can bring on REM sleep sooner and activate serotonin or dopamine, which enhance anxiety or pleasure – determining the outcome of your dreaming episodes. Eating a large meal before retiring will make you sleepy, but there’s no proof that consuming a large meal of spicy foods induces nightmares. Known as the spice factor in peppers, capsaicin is the substance that gives those delicious veggies their heat. If capsaicin is part of your evening meal, what it does do is increase your body’s internal temperature, causing you to sleep poorly, making your dreams more conscious and more easily remembered.
Another advantage of consuming spicy foods at bedtime is the effect capsaicin has on leg cramps – another nighttime affliction. Current research shows that consuming spicy foods before vigorous exercise, jolts the nervous system, overloading nerve receptors to muscles and producing a kind of numbing effect. Voila! The brain is so taken with the strong sensory input of the pain in your mouth and esophagus, it “forgets” about the muscle’s need to contract. An enterprising merchant has even developed a commercial beverage made of ginger, cinnamon, and capsaicin that Olympic hopefuls guzzle just before starting a marathon.
One author I know woke from a dream that was so vivid, so fascinating, she has turned that dream into a thrilling science fiction tale. So if you want to be more creative, more inspired, throw a dash of sriracha hot pepper sauce on that burger or steak or shrimp dinner and wake tomorrow with a brilliant plot to start you on the road to making the New York Times Best Seller List.