About six weeks ago, I stopped eating grains and dairy. I went Paleo, as in The Paleo Diet. It’s basically about staying away from most of the fruits of the neolithic revolution—grains, legumes, and of course processed foods stuffed with corn syrup. And surprisingly, my dreamlife went bezerk.
What is the Paleo Diet?
So, in the last 6 weeks, I’ve had no bread, no corn snacks, no sushi, and no pasta. No soy, no fried food, and no pizza. No cheese, no milk and—except for yesterday whoops—no ice cream.
I’m not supposed to drink beer, but I’ve cheated a few times there too. Whatever.
Instead, I’ve been eating fatty meats, fish, eggs, a lot of kale and other dark greens, nuts, avocados, loads of delicious olives ,and stir-frys using coconut oil. When I’m lazy or pressed for time, I’m eating celery and carrots, and apples and almond butter.
When I’m feeling decadent, or it’s midnight, or both, I have really expensive chocolate with 85% cacao.
The Paleo Diet is not really what paleolithic people ate, by the way. That’s baloney. To clarify, paleolithic people didn’t eat baloney either, but if they did, that’s not really a reason to try a diet, especially one that is currently trendy.
But going Paleo has been very effective for me and my symptoms.
Without divulging too many juicy details, let’s just say I’ve suffered from gastro-intestinal issues for my whole life. Not terribly. But in a always-there, sometimes-worse-than-other-times kind of way. I am a belly-worrier, always have been.
Since I started my “meat cleanse,” (I just like the way that sounds), my issues have vanished. Surprisingly, since going Paleo I’m rarely bloated and, in fact, I’ve lost almost 10lbs without trying. I didn’t start the diet to lose weight, but hey, I’ll take it.
My Dream Diets and Meat Cleanses
And… I’m also sleeping better. Or, to be more exact, I’m feeling more rested with the sleep I do get, which is not enough. (I’m still polyphasic so I can work at night, and then I sleep more when our toddler naps during the afternoon). It adds up to about 6-8 hours of sleep every 24-hour period, depending.
The surprising part is that my dreamlife has really taken off in the last month. It’s off the hook. There’s no way I could write down or record all the dreams I’m remembering. I’d spend all day recalling dreams.
The dreams are not particularly more intense or meditative or insightful. There’s just more of them, of all stripes and varieties. I’ve had a couple lucid dreams (my norm is one or two a month unless I’m doing a lucid immersion), and also my share of repetitive high school drama dreams too (still late for class, still unprepared for the exam).
In my 2012 book Lucid Immersion Guidebook, I share my recipe for the Lucid Diet. It’s no trade secret, but essentially the preferred diet of yogis, mystics and the Hari Krisha is known “anecdotally” to add dream recall and lucidity. That diet—which is about whole grains, fresh vegetables, and no meat—helped me a lot in the past, particularly when I was “digesting” some intense lucid dreamwork. A 4 day cleanse also has proved useful for key times in my dream work process.
The big difference between the classic Lucid Diet and what I’m doing now is: meat. I’m eating a lot of steak. Serious bloody steaks. Even steaks for breakfast, like a Rockefeller.
This leads me to wonder if my experience is unique? I have seen how fasting and purification can increase dream recall, but bacony sausage scrambles?
Research into Food and Dreams
The relationship between food and dreaming is a wide open topic. Most expert observations have focused on what you eat immediately before sleep, and the data is generally self-reports, not clinical trials. Psychiatrist Ernest Hartmann coined the “Pepperoni Pizza Effect,” suggesting that eating cheese and pepperoni before bed can increase nightmares.
Tore Nielsen, professor at the Université de Montreal and director of the dream and nightmare laboratory at Sacré-Coeur Hospital, also has noticed too much dairy and greasy foods before bed may contribute to bizarre dreams. The culprits in all of these cases are most likely indigestion, and undiagnosed food sensitivities (like I apparently have with grains).
Lucid dream expert Ed Kellogg also has long championed a personal “dreamatarian” diet that he gleaned over the years by taking direct cues from his own longitudinal dream journal research. A biochemist by profession, Kellogg’s diet has proven to be composed of today’s “superfoods,” especially foods that are low in toxic compounds and high in gene activators for longevity. (by the way, many of these foods are totally Paleo).
On a personal dreamwork level, Kellogg’s point is to watch your own dreams for imagery about good food and bad food, and honor the recommendations in waking life. Check out the Dream Tribe for more about this process.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this matter. There’s a lot of other things going on in my life, and it’s possible I’m just in an opening spurred on by anxiety and novelty, and would be dreaming this much even if I was still stealing bites of macaroni and cheese from my toddler every day.
Has changing your diet ever transformed your dreamlife?
First image is deeluscious, CC 2005
How cool, Ryan! I also eat Paleo for the most part (solves some digestive issues for me) but haven’t noticed an effect on my dreams. Steve Pavilina did a 30 day fruititarian diet and noticed an incredible effect on his dreams. Much higher in natural sugar than what you’re doing, probably, but certainly no grains or junk. Unforunately he didn’t want to continue doing it due to its difficulty, which I don’t blame him for. Maybe some people have worse sleep when eating grains?
My strategy for eating sushi is to eat some wakame salad (seaweed salad) and sashimi … then supplement with something else when I get home, unless I can afford to eat all the sashimi I want (pricy, but so tasty!).
Ryan Hurd says
I like your sushi strategy! I will give that a try next time. I’ve tested rice recently and it’s definitely not on my OK list. Steve’s diet sounds awfully close to a cleanse. by the way I’ve been reading that the b vitamin increase from extra fruits (and for paleo, greens and meat) may be what induces the dream effect. there’s a lot of people on paleo forums talking about how their dreams are off the hook. pretty interesting.
David Pleasants says
Ryan Hurd says
Laurel Clark says
So interesting, Ryan. There are so many different theories about what kind of diet is best, I am always interested in hearing people’s experiences and personal testimonies.
This morning I woke up with a dream fragment about 3 squares of chocolate … 60%, 75%, and some higher percentage of cacao. Don’t remember eating any of them in the dream. Wonder if that was my dream self telling me I can/should be eating dark chocolate??? I like that advice, if it’s true!
Thanks for this article.
Ryan Hurd says
that is DEFINITELY what your dream is saying. 🙂 I have been eating only 85% cacao since May. It’s intense, and you don’t have a desire to eat more than a couple squares, which is about right. It’s a major superfood when divorced from all the sugars and fillers.
Richard Wilkerson says
I’ve always said, “A hungry dreamer is a good dreamer. ” RCW
Ryannah Tannarome says
I also went Paleo-ish, I will have to pay more attention to my dreams as well!
Ryan Hurd says
yeah let me know how it goes. this could be a huge placebo effect but from all the comments I’m getting by others who didn’t even have dreams on their radar until going more paleo, I’m beginning to think it’s a real effect.
Interesting article Ryan. I have always been a big meat/fish eater and I have also had a very active dream life since childhood. A few years ago I wanted to drop a few quick pound and tried the Atkins diet for awhile. I recall that my already active dream life seemed to go into hyperdrive around that same with many more lucid dreams and even a few OBEs. I never really thought the two were related but reading this has got me wondering. Maybe it’s time to do some experimentation with my diet and see what happens. How long did it take you on the Paleo diet before you began to see the results in your dream life?
Ryan Hurd says
that’s really interesting. For me the effect was almost immediate, within a week for sure.
Ryan, I love the way you write. Thank you brother. Really great stuff! 😀
Ryan Hurd says
Anecdotally, heavy meals for me before bed disrupt dream recall. Going to bed on an empty stomach does wonders.
A. Muhammad Ma`ruf says
Re “I’ve tested rice recently and it’s definitely not on my OK list.”
There are many different ways of preparing rice. How it is prepared may make a difference. We should discuss that some time.
Ryan Hurd says
I’m looking forward to this conversation!