Just in time for Halloween, the fast food chain Burger King has announced a new burger that is clinically proven to give you nightmares. According to the company, digging into “The Nightmare King” will increase your chances of having nightmares by 3.5 times.
It even comes with a side of caution: “Proceed at your own risk. You’ve been warned.”
We all get nightmares. In fact, on any given night at least 4% of the population has a nightmare. Some are so scary they even wake us up.
But the Burger King claim has us wondering – can the food we eat influence how we dream?
Can a burger actually give you nightmares?
Although there is some research that shows a correlation between certain foods affecting our dreams, there are not enough scientific peer-reviewed studies that have been done in this area. It is known that eating a large meal right before bedtime, especially one high in carbohydrates, can trigger night sweats and cause you to wake up. This is because as you digest food, your body generates heat. Since the first four of the five stages of sleep involve lowering body temperature, this increased body heat could be disrupting the natural sleep cycle.
According to the Burger King publicist, they conducted a dream study of 50 people, 25 of them ate the chicken-beef-bacon burger and 25 did not. Seven of the participants who ate the burger said they had nightmares. Two of the participants who did not eat the burger also reported nightmares.
Burger King claims it is the specific combination of proteins and cheese in this burger which includes bacon, beef, chicken, onions, mayonnaise, and even a green-colored bun for added visuals. There are stories that say eating cheese can cause you to have nightmares, but there is little to no research to show any conclusive connection between them. There is only one study which showed that eating different types of cheese can supposedly make dreams more “wacky” but that none of the 200 participants experienced nightmares after eating cheese. However, the study was done by the British Cheese Board which clearly has an interest in getting you to eat more cheese. Also, the proteins and chemical compounds found in cheeses that can affect the brain (such as tyramine and tryptophan) are also found in other foods which do not have a reputation for changing dreams.
But let’s be honest…It just might be that the look of the Nightmare King is just as scary as what’s inside it. Green bread is usually a sign of bacteria and mold. Your body knows it immediately when it sees it and warns you not to eat it. The ghastly green colored bun is triggering a subconscious reaction to the act of eating what seems like a moldy and potentially unsafe bread. You get a sense of uneasiness that probably stays with you as you go to bed. That alone could be cause for nightmares!
About 60% of our nightmares are triggered by stress, anxiety, or unresolved daytime issues that we choose to ignore. While some of these triggers are unavoidable, some, like that horrifyingly scary late-night movie you watched, was totally avoidable.
The brain activity that happens during the fifth stage of our sleep cycle called REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, seems to pull together lots of information we have stored throughout the day in our memories. In fact, scientists have been able to somewhat control people’s dreams and nightmares. One study showed that participants who were trained to play the computer game Tetris were monitored over 2 nights and more than half of them reported dreaming of falling Tetris pieces. Food did not play a role in that study.
Since the full study from the Florida Sleep and Neuro Diagnostics is not accessible, it’s hard to check Burger King’s claims. All that being said, Burger King’s study about its nightmare-inducing burger seems like a great marketing ploy right before Halloween. There is plenty of hype. If you are looking to get nightmares, chances are you enjoy getting scared already and have plenty of memories and vivid imagery of scary movies stored in your brain that has the potential to come up while you are in REM sleep. So, by eating The Nightmare King you might just be tricking yourself into dreaming something that would happen regardless of what you eat.
Our Take – Other than the company sponsored study, there is no scientific evidence to back this claim. So ALWAYS be skeptical of claims that do not publish actual scientific data but just give you snippets of information that is embellished to fit their cause. Remember, they are trying to sell you the burger.
Nightmare or not, a late night burger that’s loaded with meats and cheese will sure have your body screaming in horror!
-Julie Nagy and Sarita Menon