Myth or Fact: Sleeping When Full Causes Nightmares

August 20, 2011

Did your mom ever tell you to not eat so much during dinner time, especially when it’s already a bit later into the evening?  And did she also say that it’s not a good idea to go to bed full because it’s not healthy?  Well, she’s actually right.  My mom had the same advice too, but I honestly never knew the exact reason why.  I could only base the wisdom on common sense, which was that, we would be sleeping in a few hours’ time, so why eat so much?

We know it's tempting to pig out and then go to sleep with a belly full of this delicious spread.

What, how much, and when

We discussed before that beyond a comfortable bed and pillows, what we eat and how much we eat (not only during dinner, but throughout the day as well) affects the quality of our sleep.   Some warn that sleeping immediately or soon after a full stomach triggers nightmares.  Is this true?  Similar to exercising, eating increases our body’s metabolism as well as brain activity.  Hence, sleeping on a full stomach can possibly disrupt one’s sleep and may generate nightmares; however, there are not enough studies which support this.

Who’s the real culprit?

The truth is, emotional stress and anxiety are the number one culprits behind triggering nightmares.  These can include daily life challenges, such as financial strains, conflicts at work, or major life transitions, such as a shift in career, a loss of a loved one, pregnancy, etc.  Trauma from past experiences and unresolved matters can also be a source of nightmares.

Apart from stress and anxiety, the intake or withdrawal of medication and drugs, as well as illnesses can also be causes of nightmares.

It is prudent to allow a few hours for food to digest before you sleep.

Is this myth busted?

So is sleeping on a full stomach a cause of producing nightmares a myth or a fact? It’s mostly likely a myth.  But it would certainly be prudent to allow a good few hours of digestion before checking in for the night.  Remember that a balanced diet and an active lifestyle play a large part in managing stress levels and your general emotional stability. In fact, exercise releases endorphins, a neurotransmitter in the brain that releases euphoria. However, you must take note that if the nightmares are frequent and persist, it would be advisable to consult a therapist.