The truth about the Nightmare King from Burger King

Everyone loves Halloween, and it’s no wonder. There’s a lot of legitimately scary stuff in this world, and Halloween is the type of fear we can control. It’s the same idea behind why we like scary movies: we know we’re not actually in any physical danger, so we can enjoy the adrenaline rush.

That’s the idea Burger King is playing into with their limited time Nightmare King. It’s not just a creepy-looking burger — and it definitely is that — it’s piled high with a beef patty, a crispy chicken fillet, bacon, mayo, American cheese, and onion (so much protein!). That’s all stacked on a green sesame seed bun, and according Burger King’s official announcement (or perhaps, disclaimer), it’s not just a burger. They claim the unique combination of proteins in the meat and cheese can disrupt a person’s REM sleep, and turn their dreams into nightmares.

BK says their scientific study found out it’s true, and chowing down on this massive burger before bedtime makes someone 3.5 times more likely to have nightmares. The trials were done with the Paramount Trials, the Florida Sleep & Neuro Diagnostic Services, Inc., and Goldforest Inc. They say 100 people participated over the course of 10 nights, and a lot of them recalled nightmares like being attacked and people morphing into snakes.

So, is there any truth to it?

We can’t actually prove there is… but we can’t prove there isn’t, either. The National Sleep Foundation says while there’s no concrete proof what you eat can give you bad dreams, they also say it’s understandable how it might. It impacts how we feel when we’re awake, after all, and they say eating something that gives you indigestion before you go to bed might make your sleep less-than-sound, and it’ll make you more likely to wake up in the middle of REM sleep and to remember bad dreams.

It doesn’t sound so crazy when you look at it that way, and it’s actually an old idea. Remember the part in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol where Scrooge confronts the ghost of Marley with this: “You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!”? He was talking about the idea that he wasn’t really seeing his old partner, it was just a nightmare caused by what he’d eaten.

In the early 20th century, there was a comic strip called Dream of the Rarebit Fiend. The entire idea was that Welsh rarebit (a traditional dish that’s essentially cheese toast) causes insane dreams in the comic’s main character, and he wakes up regretting his meal choices in the last frame of every strip. Inspired by that, a group of Canadian University researchers decided to do an actual scientific study on the phenomenon in 2015 (via Psychology Today). They found that of participants, 17.8 percent said they had food-related dreams, and could also pinpoint what food caused it. Most linked their dreams to either dairy or spicy foods, while sweet foods were thought to give dreams that were more bizarre than scary.

And that brings us back to the Nightmare King. Is it possible it’s going to give you nightmares? It’ll almost certain give you indigestion — it’s huge — and based on what the National Sleep Foundation says about indigestion and dreams, it’s possible.

It’s not the first time Burger King has released a Halloween treat that started messing with us. In 2015, their Halloween Whopper was on a black bun that had the unfortunate — and definitely shocking — ability to turn a person’s poop bright green. According to experts interviewed by USA Today, that was because of the super-concentrated food coloring in the bun. (They also added it was perfectly safe, just really, really weird.) In in case you’re wondering, there’s a good chance the Nightmare King will have the same effects in the restroom.

And, in 2018, there’s another Halloween offering that’s likely to give you nightmares (and worrisome bowel movements). The “Scary Black Cherry” slushie sent people straight from the bathroom and right to social media, sharing whether it had turned their poop black, blue, or purple. According to Women’s Health, it has to do with how food dyes mix with the yellow-green pigments already in your system and your bile. The more food dyes you eat, the stronger the color — and it doesn’t take much, they noted.

So, there you have it. You might get nightmares, or you might get a surprise when you go to the bathroom. Which is scarier? You decide.

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