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Cheesemares and Gin Tears – Myths Debunked

Maasdam cheese

Stephen King’s The Cheese. Rated 18.

Listen up people, I’m only going to say this the once. If I hear any more of you spouting ridiculous “facts” based on absolutely no science at all, I shall be forced to take drastic measures. That’s right, I shall call you “silly” to your face. IN PUBLIC!

For years now, my biggest pet peeve (besides all the other biggest peeves previously discussed) has been the utter twaddle people vomit into the atmosphere under the guise of factual information and worse still, the fact that their contemporaries not only believe them, but that they continue to spread this simpleton gospel like butter on toast! This is how some of the most ridiculous old wives tales and superstitions have continued on in today’s society, a society fully at one with the concept of electric lightbulbs and motor engines and (other than my father) the concept of electronic messages via a handheld telephonic device. We are allegedly intelligent lifeforms and yet somehow we still think cheese gives us nightmares and that gin, above all other booze, makes us cry.

If you’ve just read that last sentence and thought to yourself “but cheese does give me bad dreams and I always cry after drinking gin” then you’re in severe need of being hit round the chops with a science textbook and guess who’s the girl to do the honours? Read on, dear cheesy dreamer and all shall become clear.

For years I’ve been listening to sane adults caution each other at the dinner table regarding the consumption of stilton so close to bed time and for years I’ve been biting my tongue. Ok, the tongue biting part may have been more to do with the rate at which I stuff brie and crackers into my gob, as I certainly haven’t held back from challenging this ridiculous point, and it is a ridiculous point. Think about it, how can cheese, a simple honest dairy product (unless you’re lactose intolerant, in which case cheese is the devil incarnate and the reason you spent that romantic weekend in Paris with your face pressed against a toilet seat), cause your inner brain tickings to go all Stephen King after lights out? Where’s your logic and reason? Where’s your dignity?!

Brace yourself, you crazy believers of ancient female spouse stories, here’s some actual science. Don’t worry, I’ve broken it down into its simplest form as you clearly struggle with things that aren’t published by Disney. Here it is – Cheese, does not cause bad dreams. Fact.

Need more science? Ok, here it goes. You know how a glass of warm milk before bed has been used as a traditional aid for slipping off into a peaceful slumber? Well that one’s not a load of bull because milk contains tryptophan. I’m taking out the rest of the long words here like serotonin and melatonin and lots of other words ending in ‘in’ and will boil it down to this – tryptophan can help you sleep. Stay with me now, we’re going nice and slow so you can keep up, but feel free to have a grown up read the rest out of you find yourself struggling with the professory sounding big words like “science”.

Answer me this, you dairy doofus, what is cheese made of? Milk. What does it therefore contain? Tryptophan. What does tryptophan do (skim back up over the previous paragraph)? The answer is SLEEP! Well done, pat on the back, have a lump of emmenthal.

For those still of a skeptical nature (you really are a challenge to Charles Darwin’s theory, aren’t you?) just search the internet for the countless cheesy sleep studies that have been carried out and all the bespectacled men and women in starchy white coats will be able to tell you that this myth is about as debunked as Britney Spears virginity was after Justin Trousersnake was seen exiting her, I mean, exiting her hotel room. Sorry, Freudian slip.

Now, at the same dinner parties where idiots compare parmesan induced night terrors, I also have to stop myself from bashing them over the head with a bottle of Beaujolais when talk turns to the other delight at the centre of the table besides the cheese board. No, not the salt and pepper, left a bit, right a bit, there! The booze. I can’t tell you the countless times I’ve wanted to smash someone’s face into their soup when they have recounted to me the myriad ways that different alcoholic beverages affect their behaviour. Apparently gin makes them cry, red wine makes them sleepy, lager makes them violent… I’ll tell you what makes me violent, people talking utter bilge about things based on the same evidentiary principles as a witch hunt!

Want some more science? Well, you’re damned well getting it anyway. In order to produce gin, or ‘mother’s ruin’, as it’s often known in circles where mothers like to get ruined off their heads, you first make vodka and then tart it up with perfume. Gin, is basically vodka in drag, the transvestite of the spirits, the Ru Paul of the top shelf. Is vodka especially known for inducing severe blubbering? No, so what is there about juniper that causes tears? NOTHING! The consumption of enough alcohol (and having to listen to dull cretins at dinner parties) is enough reduce anyone to depression because (hold tight, more science) alcohol is a depressant.

Now, here’s the behavioural science part for you. People associate specific types of behaviour with certain drinks because of the circumstances in which they are consumed. Drinking alone? Gin. Drinking while watching a football match? Lager. Drinking in front of a roaring log fire? Red wine. Can you see how actually, the former dictates the appalling behaviour and not the latter? Still not convinced, are you my little remedial booze hounds? Fine, I have more simplified science to throw at you.

Here’s how booze works in its most simplest explanation: Ethanol (that’s drinking alcohol to you) is surrounded by liquid with flavouring to make one of any boozilicious drinks. You drink it, the ethanol makes you drunk, the rest doesn’t. The end. What is the thing in beer that gets you drunk? Ethanol. What is the thing in gin that gets you drunk? Ethanol. What is the thing in Pimms that gets you drunk? Ok, no one has ever got drunk on Pimms but the point being, it’s not the salt and vinegar flavouring on the crisps that makes you fat, it’s the fat!

Actually, while we’re on the subject of Pimms No1, never cried because you drank that at a picnic, have you? It’s gin based. Yeah, suck on that, you psychosomatic sap. Gin, in your glass of relaxed-sunny-disposition-associated fruit cup!

Now I shall sit back while you all mull this fact filled rant over and wait while you divide yourself into three camps. Camp one; those of you who see it my way and are feeling thoroughly smug at the fact you live in an age of modern science and televised documentaries. Camp two; those of you who don’t really believe me because you woke up this morning feeling “totally weird” after a night of gouda and Gordon’s, but who know better than to shame yourselves by saying anything, and the third camp; those of you who are still utterly convinced that you got into a fight last night because you tried a different brand of ale and are going to fill my comments section with your own “experience” filled arguments as to why cheese holds mystical properties capable of transporting you to a land created by David Cronenberg after the stroke of midnight. To this third camp, I have only this to say – you’re going to soil yourself when you find out the world is actually round.

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About prettyfeetpoptoe

I live in London and have both my own legs so I am fortunate enough to get out and about on occasion. I form many views on the things that I see and do and love nothing better than a session of linguistic gymnastics in order to share these views.

57 responses »

  1. Too much science early in the morning. My head hurts. I think I’ll drink some gin and watch football… fuck, why are they throwing it instead of kicking it?

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    • Sounds like you have a solid grasp on the best way to handle scientific things you don’t understand – drink until either they make sense, or you don’t care! Well done. 😉

      Reply
  2. Got me laughing all the way to the last line. Loves it!

    Pink.

    Reply
  3. Cheesily and alcoholically speaking, I find this post very edifying! (though I’m not superstitious)

    Reply
  4. What! The earth is ROUND? What is this witchcraft! Surely ye be a she demon!

    I do agree (being a brie lover myself) that cheese does NOT cause nightmares, nor does eating during the night. And alcohol DOES affect people differently, but that is usually based on the preservatives in the varying types of alcohol and not the alcohol itself. Personally, I find a nice glass (*cough,halfabottle,cough*) of Bailey’s Irish Cream before bed does assist in sleeping better. And to the turnipheads you still think cheese is a dairy devil, Bailey’s is Irish whiskey and what else? MILK.

    You’re all turnip heads. That was in the last chapter of Darwin’s Evolution, the fact that some people evolved from turnips and therefore have them for heads.

    Reply
  5. missy amber

    I’ve always found that beer makes me sleepy and vodka makes me all partied up. But that may just be because beer is a tad filling, what with the quantity you need to drink to get sozzled, and my vodka is usually well laced with non-proprietory brand cola.
    And I’m usually to drunk to remember whether the cheese gave me nightmares.

    Now, could you please clear up whether sitting too close to the telly gives you square eyes, and if it is possible to concentrate on homework with the radio on? Best get the facts straight before I start berating the kids.

    Reply
    • I find that vodka makes me unconscious but that’s usually because an open bottle is an e,pty bottle in my house.

      Television makes you full of wondrous factoids and should be encouraged at all times – the closer to the screen the better.

      Homework? Well, you could just do it for them, make sure they get good grades and then they can focus on listening to the radio and get that all important musical knowledge base that will see them in great demand on pub quiz teams.

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      • missy amber

        Excellent. I shall henceforth defer to your wisdom in all matters of parental advice.
        I rock at pub quizzes – not sure what that says about my childhood?

        Reply
  6. Love your tongue in cheek…had never heard either. Only that Liquor is quicker…(a quicker road to stupidity for some)…which you have truly proven here…great job!

    Reply
    • How have you never heard either? You’re clearly hanging around with a far brighter crowd than I am.

      The other one that gets my goat is “wine before beer makes you feel queer, beer before wine, makes you feel fine”. WHAT THE &@#£!?

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      • wow and I have never heard that one either. Too funny…now I have as a bartender heard that tequila is “to kill ya”…but I do not think it changes the disposition it is just if you drink too much and are not used to it you will vomit till you think it is going to kill you…have seen proof of that many times from rookie drinkers who earlier in night were…”let me buy another round of shots”…Was so glad that I drank water all night!

        Reply
      • wow and I have never heard that one either. Too funny…now I have as a bartender heard that tequila is “to kill ya”…but I do not think it changes the disposition it is just if you drink too much and are not used to it you will vomit till you think it is going to kill you…have seen proof of that many times from rookie drinkers who earlier in night were…”let me buy another round of shots”…Was so glad that I drank water all night!

        Reply
      • The beer after/before myth varies depending on where in the world you’re from. Whatever you start with, mixing drinks has no effect on how drunk you get, thats down to how much you drink. However it can cause stomach upset in the same way that eating too many different dishes at a kids birthday party can. Personally I’d rather stick to ‘variety is the spice of life’ outlook! I’m off to experiment with some new cocktails, lets see what I’ve got in the kitchen…. whisky, some left over port, a couple of bottles of wine and a few vodka premixed…. do you think It needs any lemonade?

        Reply
  7. I’ve never heard the cheese myth, but I always hear that ice cream causes bad dreams. But I went through a time when I ate ice cream every night before bed (okay, I am still going through that time) and I occasionally had bad dreams, but not every night. Thanks for debunking these myths! And, my sister and her husband recently ate bad bleu cheese in Paris and spent the rest of the trip over the toilet as you described. So sad!

    Reply
    • The cheese myth haunts me like a bad dream (see what I did there?), I hear it all the time and it never fails to raise my blood pressure.

      In defence of any Parisians out there, I love the place and not all French cheese leads to people talking to God on the big white phone. Sometimes it’s the wine. Just kidding!

      Reply
  8. “Life is largely a matter of expectation” ~ Horace

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  9. I think its interesting to try and work out where these things come from. Definitely agree with you about the booze context.

    My theory about the cheese myth is that people just remember their dreams more after eating cheese. Maybe it’s because the tryptophan in it makes you go to sleep more quickly, so the normal sleep cycle is pushed out and people wake during a different part of sleep (assuming woken by an alarm rather than naturally). Or maybe if you are lactose intolerant but not enough to realise then it just makes you wake up more often due to bowel rumblings!

    Reply
    • There is actually one science based theory that any rich food may cause more blood to be directed to your stomach to aid digestion, leaving your sleep disturbed BUT most of these myths come from outmoded and outdated superstitions and the fact too many people prefer watching The Kardashians instead of picking up a book.

      Today’s witchcraft and superstition was yesterday’s science.

      Reply
  10. I don’t remember my dreams to scientifically test this theory… but I do know that eating like a pig makes for horrible sleep, that I’ve tested. And I’ve never understood the warming of the milk either, although I’m sure I could find some witch doctor who’d give me a half-baked answer.

    I’d never heard the gin myth. I am, however, convinced that alcohol makes me smarter… and also prettier. 😉

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    • Alcohol makes me totally amazing on the dancefloor. I have the skills of J-Lo’s backing dancers combined with the sex appeal of a high class stripper. I also possess all the eloquence of a stand up comidian. Fact.

      Reply
  11. Oi! Dumbass, your target audience for this post are primarily people who read up on newspapers and not the internet. Also, people who drink gin should taken outside, made to stand in a line and shot in the face …. So this is rather pointless .

    Reply
  12. LLOOLL. Never heard of the cheese myth. All I know is that sleeping with your hair wet blinds you. Hahhahaha. =))

    Reply
    • It’s true, it really does blind you. Because telling people you believe that means I’ll have to come along and shove a spoon in your eye. 😉

      Reply
      • Nice. For some reason I laughed at that, then thought “What a violent streak she’s got”, but then started wondering about the mechanics of people being hit in the eye with a spoon. Surely there must be some better usage for my brain than this? I should be reading The Times and getting culturally enriched. But, nah, can’t be bothered, looks like I’ll keep on reading here instead.

        Reply
        • Why would you read The Times or National Geographic when everything you want to know about anything that matters is right here?! Where else can you learn such thngs as how to kill a person using only a biro?!

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  13. Incisive, erudite packed with mumbo jumbo – no one will understand it – perfect science. You are a Boffin!

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  14. The world is round!
    I am going to write this despite the fact I know you are going to go all cynical and crazy on me. Oh well, been married twice, used to that.

    The scientific community (of which I believe in – well, they exist) is more often wrong than right in the long run. Now, having made that statement, I will try to support it with proof (not the alcoholic type, the factual type – or close).

    I have used this one as it is one of my favorites:
    Years ago, the official record for the mile was right at 3:00 (perhaps, a second or two over). Studies were done and the scientific community officially stated that it was humanly “impossible” for a person to run a mile in under 3 minutes. They “proved” it with tests and stated that the human physiology was not capable of faster speeds. Then, once, one person broke that record by several seconds. Within a year, more than six others had bested the 3:00 mark. Science is not always correct.
    As a teacher, I often told my students that Science is always “Best Guess”. It’s the best we know based on our “facts”. The world is flat; heavier than air travel is impossible; flying to the moon?.
    It may all be in our heads. So? Even if it is all in our heads, if it works, wonderful. People need to know that our mind is a powerful thing. Perhaps, in some instances, we need to let the mind take care of the problem; it may do a better job than any of us really think. I believe the mind can heal the body. I know it does; I have seen it and I have done it myself.

    Let it be said for the record: I eat lots of cheese – no change in nightmares. I don’t drink, but do know that ethanol is ethanol.
    However, let it also be said: It was brought to my attention (by a high member of science in college) that there are, basically, two brands of moth balls. One is naphthalene; the other you can look up if you have to have that bit to follow along. Anyway, both of these can be kept in drawers, closets, etc…to drive off pesky moths. However, should you mix them (and I have!), they produce a slow reaction that is very hot and somewhat dangerous. – This prompts a “read the label” when replacing them. What I am pushing forth is the slight idea that (since I have not seen a “scientific” study done for this specifically), perhaps, the “other” ingredients in different alcohols may combine to cause “some” people to react differently.
    Not agreeing with the “crying” bunch, just saying…there are more colors than black and white – lots of grays, even in black and white photos…
    Scott
    PS- Did enjoy the post.

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    • I agree with you that science is not the end of the line when it comes to proving a point (I mentioned on a previous comment that today’s superstitions and mumbjo jumbo were yesterday’s science) but I don’t hold with your mothball analogy as you’re talking about two different ingredients having a chemical reaction whereas juniper and ethanol when combined do pretty much nothing other than beg for a splash of tonic and wedge of citrus.

      Still, at least you used some actual factual thingumies, unlike all those idiots who blithely defer all emotional control to the mystical powers held by the gin fairies and cheese demons. 😉

      Reply
      • “gin fairies and cheese demons” I think are the sort of thing Descartes wrote about in his Meditations. Which lead him to discount his reality as not real, and lead to the well know conclusion “I think therefore I exist, and where is my gin and tonic?”.

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        • Ah yes, that famous quote. They teach that in all the philisophy courses of colleges across the land now. Well, in my living room they do.

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          • In my Philosophy class, it’s wine.
            (Side note, I actually did study Philosophy at uni. And one of my lecturers encouraged us to drink and discuss Philosophy. There’s some famous philosopher that said famously “think about philosophy for an hour a day, and drink the rest of the time”. Lesson learned!)

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      • Thanks, … I think… 🙂

        Reply
  15. You’re the coolest “Mythbuster” I know!

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  16. My god, you have a perfect voice.

    Reply
  17. As I read through this, eating my macaroni and cheese at 9pm, and eyeing my bottle of scotch, I wonder, what kind of people do you have dinner with? Though, I do think eating ONLY cheese, with a good amount of scotch will cause diarrhoea and massive fatigue.

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  18. One of my most cherished youthful memories concerns a well known poet, very drunk on that well known Scottish sleep aid Carlsberg Special Brew, hurling empty bottles of said brew out of my third floor tenement window at 330am whilst yelling “F–k the Pope!!!” I think this offers clear scientific evidence of a link between alcohol consumption and religiosity. What thinkest thou, o scientifically literate one?

    Reply

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