A common belief is that eating too much before going to sleep can cause to have nightmares. In fact, I often experience it: I systematically have nightmares after eating too much in the evening.

Then I was wondering: is there really a link between digestive system's activity and unconscious brain's activity?

If it actually exists,
- is the influence linked to the neurons we have in out gut?
- or is it linked to the augmentation of the concentration of a nutrient in our bloodstream (which can then reach our brain and)?
- or is the neuronal activity which control digestion that interferes with the process of dreaming?

If the influence is linked to the augmentation of the concentration of a nutrient in our bloodstream, does this mean what we eat actually controls our mood or level of anxiety, or any subconscious process? (regardless of compounds known for having a particular effect, like theobromine, etc...)

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    $\begingroup$ Although I haven't experienced this specific thing, it's reasonable to say that if someone is uncomfortable somehow when they're sleeping, that that would translate to bad things happening in dreams, as the brain tries to figure out a scenario that would account for the body's sensations. So my thought would be, maybe some stomach sensations are somehow uncomfortable, or maybe similar to how your stomach feels when you're scared. Or maybe this would be something totally different. $\endgroup$
    – A L
    Aug 8, 2016 at 6:12
  • $\begingroup$ According to medicaldaily.com/… the extra energy from late night eating can increase brain activity and may contribute to nightmares. $\endgroup$
    – A L
    Aug 8, 2016 at 6:16
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    $\begingroup$ Speaking from experience, I slept really well yesterday after my weekend lunch when I ate so much that I had trouble moving around. So, on a very light note I don't think overeating leads to nightmares. Rather, for me they would lead to a no dream sleep. $\endgroup$ Aug 8, 2016 at 9:25
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for you answers. I'll try to follow the lead of extra energy to figure out more precise processes. $\endgroup$
    – aika
    Aug 8, 2016 at 21:58
  • $\begingroup$ I just wanted to note that I never felt any feeling of discomfort due to over eating in those situations, and I think this aspect of discomfort adds more complexity to the activity of the organism in its entirety, because it is a "violent" state compared to a normal digestion. Though, it could be interesting to study too. $\endgroup$
    – aika
    Aug 8, 2016 at 22:04

1 Answer 1


A nightmare is basically an alarm; typically your subconcious mind trying to wake you. Nightmares often occur when you are experiencing pain or discomfort (like needing to use the bathroom).

Dreams are a way of sorting through questions in a "what if" sort of way. When it comes to a nightmare, you are in a panic-situation, often without a solution, or where a "logical" solution is unsuccessful.

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    $\begingroup$ Could you cite some sources for your claims regarding dreams and nightmares? While not implausible, the claims raise more questions than they answer without any supporting evidence. $\endgroup$
    – Forest
    Oct 14, 2016 at 16:35

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