Can Burger King's New 'Nightmare King' Burger Actually Give You Nightmares? We Asked a Scientist

Burger King claims that the freakish green burger is 'clinically proven' to mess with your dreams. We asked for receipts.

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Oct 18 2018, 6:46pm

Photo courtesy of Burger King

Burger King has announced that it has released a burger that is—in its words—“clinically proven” to cause nightmares. If your first thought was “Doesn’t every Burger King burger do that?” then you’re obviously familiar with the onion ring-and-mayo topped Rodeo King. But no, the new Nightmare King has been carefully designed to straight-up wreck your subconscious, and Burger King says that it has the science to prove it.

The idea that food has the potential to influence our dreams isn’t a new one: In the early 1900s, the popular “Dream of the Rarebit Fiend” comic strip spent more than 20 years illustrating the nightmares supposedly caused by eating Welsh rarebit, an open-faced cheese-and-toast dish.

“There are a number of foods, like some kinds of cheese, that have been shown to increase nightmares in mostly small and exploratory studies, but nothing that comes close to being able to say ‘clinically proven’ or even ‘likely,’" Dr. Michael Grandner, the Director of the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona, told MUNCHIES. (That didn’t stop the British Cheese Board from attempting to disprove that whole nightmare thing with its own sleep study, which was never published in a peer-reviewed journal and was met with a collective eye-roll by actual psychologists.)

So that brings us to the Nightmare King. Yes, its deep green bun makes it upsetting to even look at, but does that translate to nightmares? According to Burger King, it totally does. The burger chain partnered with the Paramount Trials and Florida Sleep & Neuro Diagnostic Services to conduct a “scientific study” about whether the Nightmare King really could fuck you up. One hundred participants were fed a Nightmare King every night before bed, and their vital signs, brain activity and respiration rate were all tracked by doctors and scientists to determine whether they had “vivid dreams” or not.

The study’s lead physician says that the research subjects were 3.5 times more likely to have nightmares than the general population; that translates to around 14 percent of them having terrifying dreams, compared to around 4 percent of the population who hadn’t eaten it. But Grandner is skeptical of those results.

“The way they describe the study is really problematic,” he said. “There are many things wrong with this. They are saying that the record of nightmares was 14 percent, which is kind of misleading, since they are inferring that this [burger] caused nightmares. You would only be able to infer this if you looked at prevalence before and after eating the sandwich. That 14 percent [of participants] reported nightmares doesn’t proved that anything caused anything.

“It is also unclear whether participants knew they were in a study to look at nightmares and thus were maybe more likely to report or experience them and how the nightmares were measured is not clear.” (MUNCHIES has reached out to both Burger King and Florida Sleep & Neuro Diagnostic Services for further details on their research methods and is awaiting a response.)

Grandner also said that there was nothing in the Nightmare King’s list of components—a quarter-pound beef patty, a breaded chicken filet, American cheese, bacon, mayonnaise, onions, or even that green bun—that stood out to him as being nightmare fuel.

“Assuming the burger caused nightmares, it must do so by doing something—but what is that thing?” Grandner wondered. “It seems like if something were to cause nightmares, it would likely have to do that by causing a short-term REM sleep deprivation that would then rebound with more intense than usual REM sleep, coupled by a decreased arousal threshold. So if something were to increase nightmares, it would likely have to do so by making your sleep worse, with nightmares as a side effect. That doesn't sound like a selling point to me.”

If that sounds like a selling point to you, though, the Nightmare King will be available at Burger King for a limited time, starting on October 22. Sweet dreams and all that.