Acid Reflux Nightmare

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"Why do you doubt your senses?"

"Because," said Scrooge, "a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There's more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!"

Alice is enjoying a late meal of a triple-decker hot link sandwich before bed. Bob warns her (for what is usually not the first time) that it's only going to give her indigestion and bad dreams. Alice blows him off and chows down. I think you can guess what happens that night. Well, it isn't that. (Or for that matter that!)

As it turns out, greasy food is literal Nightmare Fuel.

A variant of the Mushroom Samba commonly found in Sit Coms and cartoons.

Truth in Television, as anyone who's eaten at D'Leon's after dark will tell you.

Examples of Acid Reflux Nightmare include:

Comics[edit | hide | hide all]

  • This actually drives part of the plot in Gene Luen Yang's Loyola Chin and the San Peligran Order. The title character starts experimenting with the sorts of dreams she gets from eating odd combinations of foods, which leads to her encounter with Saint Danger of the titular San Peligran Order.
  • In the ScroogeMcDuck comic The Dream of a Lifetime by Don Rosa, the Beagle Boys invade Scrooge's dreams to steal the door combinations to his money bin's vault. When the dreams (all recollections from Scrooge's adventurous past) get too wild for them they pin it down to pre-bedtime meals.
  • In an early Sonic the Hedgehog issue, Sonic chows down on one too many chili dogs and dreams he's "Sonic the Chili Dog", his fellow Freedom Fighters are condiments and Robotnik was a hamburger. When he comes to, he vows not to eat anymore chili dogs... which he breaks five seconds later.
  • The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers had a story where the trio break into a prison to free a friend. There's lots of high-body-count mayhem, and when Fat Freddy gets swarmed and beaten by hundreds of police, we see he's dreaming and his two friends are angrily swatting him with a rolled-up newspaper for eating all two dozen hashish-laced cookies they'd baked for a party. Then, in a much much later story, the wake-up scene is repeated, implying everything that happened in that 12-year span was him dreaming!


Literature[edit | hide]

  • Scrooge accuses Marley's ghost of being a food-induced nightmare (more of gravy than of grave!) in A Christmas Carol, which makes this Older Than Radio.
  • In Lucy Maud Montgomery's The Story Girl, the aimless child heroes of the narrative decide to record their dreams for a summer, and begin to deliberately eat rich food before going to bed so that they dream as vividly and crazily as possible. As a by-product, none of them sleep well and they're all cranky and irritable when awake (except for the Big Eater of the group.) When the appointed loser of the group accidentally poisons herself, (she lives) the children's doctor bans them from doing it.
  • Brambleclaw of Warrior Cats thinks he had one in the first book of The New Prophecy. In reality...
  • In one story by Ephraim Kishon. Which leads to a row with his wife, and the next time he dreams of Freud who tells him not to eat heavy food before sleeping. Too late!


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • An episode of The Cosby Show features Cliff having a hoagie-induced nightmare courtesy of Jim Henson.
    • Another, using the same setup, ended with Cliff giving birth to a 7-foot-long hoagie and a bottle of soda.
  • Speaking of Henson, a Sesame Street sketch had Cookie Monster sleeping over with Ernie and having a nightmare about singing cookies.
  • Home Improvement used this several times with Tim and Polish food.
  • On Hannah Montana, some "Loco Hot Cocoa" causes Miley to have a nightmare which eventually turns into a Dead Person Conversation with her mother.
    • A few episodes later Miley sneaking Robbie Ray's pork rinds leads to an All Just a Dream episode involving Lilly having a crush on Jackson.
  • It's implied after the fact that this was behind most of Newhart.
  • During Season 2 of the The Sopranos, Tony eats some bad shellfish and has an extremely long dream sequence where he finally admits to himself that his friend Big Pussy (in the form of a talking fish) has become a federal informant. When he wakes up, he acts on this information and murders Pussy.
  • Dads Army had an episode where Captain Mainwaring has a dream that he is Napoleon after Waterloo and Sergent Wilson is the Duke of Wellington, among others.
  • In one episode of Mad About You, eating ostrich meat leads to a bizarre Laugh In dream.
  • An episode of The Big Bang Theory ended with Leonard waking up from a dream about Sheldon reproducing, and deciding "That's it, no more Thai food."
  • One episode of Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. involved both Gomer and the sergeant suffering this after eating Welsh rarebit. While the nature of the nightmare is a fairly tame example - Gomer and the sergeant exchange personalities - what drives it Up to Eleven is the fact that they wind up sleepwalking and acting it out for real.
  • A Thanksgiving episode of The Bernie Mac Show has Bernie getting these after eating undercooked turkey.
  • In a post-2002 Hallowe'en episode of The Basil Brush Show involved Basil eating cheese before going to bed and dreaming that the human characters were turning into vampires and they were all trying to get him.
  • In one episode of I Love Lucy, Lucy compares her friend Carolyn's modern Chinese furniture to "a bad dream you'd have after eating too much Chinese food."


Newspaper Comics[edit | hide]

  • Garfield had several of these, one interestingly from drinking too much coffee.
  • Winsor McCay's Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend was an entire newspaper strip about nothing but Acid Reflux Nightmares. Rarebit, incidentally, is cheese melted over bread; apparently there's a legend that says eating cheese before going to bed gives you nightmares.
    • McCay's strip would later be the inspiration for Rick Veitch's comic book/dream journal Roarin' Rick's Rare Bit Fiends, which in turn was parodied in Cerebus.
    • The Little Nemo strips would also sometimes end with Nemo's mother attributing his bad dreams to eating before bed.
  • One FoxTrot Story Arc had Jason going through the events of A Christmas Carol in a dream after being forced to watch it and eat his mother's chili (or similar bad-dream-inducing food).
    • Another featured the father going through a Polar Express parody after drinking bad eggnog.
  • Sgt. Snorkel once blamed a weird dream (about being a Superhero) on too much pizza.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • The entire premise of the Nintendo DS game Garfield's Nightmare is that Garfield chowed down on way too much food before bed (actually normal for Garfield to overeat), and in his dream, he has an adventure across multiple dream worlds. Eventually, he escapes the nightmare world and comes up with a moral. The food theme continues throughout the nightmare.
  • In Time Splitters 2, one of the arcade league missions is that a member of the Chicago Mafia who severed the hands of his victims ate too much cheese and dreamt that the severed hands came to life (With bodies made of matchsticks)and tried to kill him.
  • In the 2011 release of You Don't Know Jack, the "Nocturnal Admissions" questions would have Cookie tell the player about some crazy dream he had from eating before bed, which always seems to involve him, his cats and his mother acting out the plot of whatever movie he'd been watching earlier that night, which the player would have to guess.
  • At the beginning of Shantae: Half-Genie Hero, the protagonist dreams (she thinks) of investigating a cave under her uncle's house, where a mysterious voice warns her of an "Agent of Darkness". She wakes up, and blames it on reading comic books and eating cookie dough ice cream before bed. (Or course, that isn't the case.)

Webcomics[edit | hide]

  • In CRFH, Mike wakes up one morning with a tentacle. He insists violently that it is really just a pizza-induced dream. Unfortunately for him...
  • The first Narbonic "Dave In Slumberland" strip ends with Dave waking at his desk and blaming the rarebit he had for lunch (since it's a parody of McCay.)


Web Original[edit | hide]

  • Played with in Everyman HYBRID. Part of Evan's dream experiment involves eating various foods before bed. Pizza and hot wings don't do much, as he just dreams about a picnic with his grandmother. Grilled chicken and doritos causes him to not remember his dreams. A healthy meal causes him to dream of roller coasters. Chicken salad, water, and fruit cause him to dream of a town of children, all of whom disappear. He then dreams he's in the woods, where he hears children screaming. He also finds hanging bags full of blood. Of course, the dream comes true a few days later, suggesting Slender Man was at work...


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Gordon Shumway's first reaction after the trippy intro to his Animated Adaptation turned out to be All Just a Dream is to swear off eating before bedtime.
  • In Garfield and Friends, Jon tells this to Garfield, who has a dream where he keeps eating and growing bigger. Doesn't seem bad to Garfield, until at the end an alien abducts him and reveals that a "hunger ray" was used on him to fatten Garfield up for "alien thanksgiving". He wakes up and refuses to eat a plate of lasagna. Then eats it anyway.
    • Similarly, in the children's book "Garfield's Cat Nap", Garfield eats a slice of pizza as a midnight snack to indulge himself after being given only a salad for dinner. He then has a dream about an unpleasant future where all the TV sets play only exercise shows and the food comes in pill form. Kind of a subversion of the above example, in that when Garfield wakes up, he's thankful for all the normal food he can eat.
  • In an episode of Hey Arnold!, Helga ends up sleepwalking after eating pork rinds before bed. Twice she finds herself waking up at Arnold's house, the third time she almost confesses her love to him. For Helga, that's definitely a nightmare!
    • Correction - the third time, she wakes up in Arnold's shower, and the fourth time is when she almost confesses her love for him. Of course, Fridge Logic then sets in when you wonder how she manages to repeatedly get across town in just her pajamas (and once, in just a bathrobe) without anyone noticing.
  • In The Angry Beavers episode "Food of the Clods," Norbert's mix of spicy foods and cheesy fictional B Movies causes him to become a violent sleepwalker who acts out those movies. After Norb becomes a rampaging pseudo-Valkyrie after watching Viking Women from Venus, Daggett decides to fight fire with fire... except Dag accidentally becomes a flamboyant Latin American dancer after watching a commercial for a "weight loss through limbo dancing" program.
  • The Peanuts special What a Nightmare, Charlie Brown was based on this trope. Too much pizza before bedtime, combined with his owner accusing him of being "overly civilized", causes Snoopy to dream of living the hard life of a Yukon sled dog.
  • Used as a Framing Device in the second "Treehouse of Terror" episode of The Simpsons.
    • Also in the episode where Homer eats Police Chief Wiggum's "Guatemalan insanity pepper" chili. A bit hazy on the borderline between "nightmare" and "hallucination", but Homer does wake up at the end of his trippy journey through his subconscious.
      • Being led by a spiritual advisor voiced by Johnny Cash, no less.
  • After Jonny wakes up in the Dream Within a Dream ending of the Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy episode "Rock-A-Bye Ed", he decides "No more free-range soybeans before bed."
    • An earlier episode featured Ed sleepwalking hilarious distances through the neighborhood. While it is uncertain if eating before bed caused this, as he sleepwalks Ed eats virtually everything in his path, from regular foods to Edd's cactus to Jimmy (whom is thrown up later).
    • While it didn't really happen while he was asleep, in the Halloween special "Ed, Edd, n Eddy's Boo-Haw-Haw", due to a combination of junk food and too many horror movies, Ed's already loose grip on reality becomes even more unhinged, resulting in him mistaking every kid in the neighborhood for monsters and viciously attacks them.
      • It then became a real nightmare for Edd and Eddy, who, for some reason, were the target of children's payback.
    • Also referenced in "Dueling Eds", which opens with a kung fu school scam, where Eddy uses a mirror trick to make it look like he's created copies of himself. Of course, Jonny was awake at the time, but still.

Jonny: I think I'm reliving that expired tofu, Plank.

Flash (to Destiny): See you next time I have too many jalapenos.

    • Also in Justice League Unlimited, we have this line when Supergirl is having weird dreams possibly linked to Cadmus:

Green Arrow: This whole trip might just prove the kid shouldn't eat nachos before bed.
The Question: Peanut butter sandwiches.
Supergirl: How did- what, do you go through my trash?
The Question: Please.

Beat
The Question: I go through everyone's trash.
  • Arthur has one after he eats too much candy and cake, and nods off while listening to his sister's fairy tales.
    • An earlier episode reveals that eating hazenpfeifer ice cream gives Muffy these.
  • One Gumby cartoon has Father Time accidentally causing various time-related problems for the world because he ate too many sweets before bed.
  • The Weekenders had two examples where Tino would have a dream that ended with Martin Van Buren on a toy train shouting "Down with the cotton gin! Down with the cotton gin!"
  • In The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, Billy feeds himself, Grim and Mandy rotted pizza. Hilarity Ensues in their respective dreams.
    • It was sort of subverted with Mandy's dream, a parody of A Night on Bald Mountain, as she was in place of of the titular creature, Chernabog. Still, while it wasn't really a nightmare to her, it would've been for anyone else!
  • At the end of the Family Guy episode "Love Thy Trophy," after overindulging on pancakes, Stewie has a nightmare where he sees himself crawling on the ceiling of his room. (This is a Shout-Out to the film Trainspotting.)
  • Yellow Submarine - Frankenstein's monster rises from a lab table, gulps down some serum in a test tube, starts to quake, then, BOOM - turns into John Lennon.

John: Hey Ringo, I just had the strangest dream.
Ringo: I warned you about eating on an empty stomach.


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • Apples are said by some people to have an effect similar to that of Welsh rarebit if eaten too close to bedtime.
  • A common story is that eating cheese close to going to bed will give a person nightmares.
  • It's commonly claimed that Salvador Dali ate Camembert cheese before sleeping to intentionally invoke this effect, to inspire future paintings.
  • An Irish Young Scientist Exhibition stand once concluded that eating cheese before bed did cause nightmares, even though the students behind the stand were skeptical of the saying from the outset.
  • As discussed on QI, cheese purportedly gives one good dreams, or at least a good night's sleep, due to its concentration of milk's tryptophan content. Tryptophan is the amino acid that is associated with the myth of causing sleepiness after Thanksgiving dinner, as it's a major component of serotonin, the feel-good neurotransmitter of the year. In the interest of full disclosure, the study in which this was discovered was sponsored by the British Cheese Board.
  • In the Middle Ages, rye bread was often contaminated with the ergot fungus. Eating this before going to sleep is similar to going to sleep after taking LSD and can cause some fairly horrific nightmares.
    • Really, eating ergot-contaminated bread at any time is going to mess you up.
    • No wonder they were worried about demons and witches.
    • The Salem Witch Trials were thought to have been brought on in part by grain contaminated by ergot.
  • If you actually suffer from acid reflux and get it while you're sleeping (which is pretty much inevitable), you may have strange dreams based on the pain and nausea before finally waking up.