Chocolate is the bane of mine and many other people’s existence. We love it dearly, and we would give up many things in our life for it. With visible results on our belly.
But dark chocolate has a benefit many people don’t know about. It helps people fall asleep. Perhaps you’ve noticed this yourself by eating it right before bed. Or maybe a friend of yours told you so.
The answer to the question is…maybe! It depends on a couple of factors. It is true that dark chocolate contains nutrients that help with sleep. But it is also true it has other nutrients that impede sleep. Each body reacts to these nutrients differently, so you should be the ultimate judge of the question in the title.
In this article, we’ll discuss the science behind dark chocolate. There are some of its nutrients that are very helpful with sleep, but it also contains lots of caffeine. We will learn how it works, so you know if it could be good for you.
Eating it before bedtime might be just what your doctor ordered. Or not.
What Is in Dark Chocolate?
What is in dark chocolate? Chocolate is made of sugar, milk, lecithin, vanilla, and cocoa butter. Dark chocolate usually has more cocoa and less sugar than regular chocolate.
But what does this mean for your sleep?
There are some nutrients in dark chocolate that might help you fall asleep. The most important ones include:
Magnesium is an essential mineral found naturally in many foods, like tea leaves, pumpkin seeds, soybeans, and avocados. It’s a natural muscle relaxant that can help you feel less tense.
Warning: There are many articles on the internet claiming that magnesium helps with sleep, but the scientific research suggests otherwise. The nutrient has no effect on our ability to sleep. Here is one study proving it, and here is a question on the topic submitted to Harvard Health Publishing.
Theobromine is found naturally in plants like tea leaves, pumpkin seeds, soybeans, and avocados; however, cocoa beans actually contain more than any other plant because of its high concentration of the chemical compound called methylxanthines (caffeine).
When someone consumes dark chocolate with caffeine, they will feel an increase in alertness and arousal as well as increased heart rate and blood pressure. But if eaten before bedtime, theobromine will help induce sleep. The same goes for caffeine from coffee, tea and soda.
Potassium is an electrolyte found in many fruits like bananas and oranges, but it’s also found in dark chocolate as well! Potassium regulates the body’s fluid balance, which helps to control heart rate and blood pressure.
In your body there are two types of ion exchange. One will consume potassium, and the other will excrete it. Too little or too much potassium can cause many issues, from dehydration to skin disorders. But by eating foods that contain this mineral (like fruits), you can regulate your fluids better.
Iron is an essential mineral that helps maintain the oxygen levels of your cells and transports nutrients around your bloodstream, like protein and carbohydrates. It gives you energy.
Iron has the benefits because it helps your body stay refreshed and allows for more nutrients to enter better into your cells.
The drawbacks are that if not taken in the right dosage, too much can make things like anemia and headaches happen.
And foods containing too much iron have adverse effects on people who have already had their stomach lining damaged by consuming too many iron-containing substances or eating large amounts of high-iron food, which becomes toxic to us when combined with medicinal herbs like aloe vera or garlic.
Zinc is a mineral found in many foods. It’s good for you and can help your body stay refreshed. There are some drawbacks, like if not taken in the right dosage it could cause side effects like headaches and anemia.
But these only happen when you eat lots of zinc. You’ll have to eat kilograms of dark chocolate, plus other foods rich in zinc to reach that point.
Caffeine is an ingredient usually found in coffee or tea which may affect your sleepiness level if it’s consumed before bedtime.
here is a lot of caffeine in dark chocolate — up to 50 mg per ounce if you’re eating pure cocoa powder. In regular milk chocolate, the caffeine amounts are significantly lower (about 20mg).
As long as you don’t gorge on dark chocolate, you won’t ingest too much caffeine so that it will affect your sleep. However, it depends on many other factors.
Are you someone who doesn’t drink coffee at night because you can’t sleep after? Then your body might be more sensitive to caffeine, and so you should avoid dark chocolate.
Body reaction to caffeine varies between each individual, and there’s no one-size-fits-all rule to it. The best advice I can give you is to try it yourself. Does drinking coffee before bed disrupt your sleep? If so, you might want to avoid dark chocolate, although it contains a lot less caffeine.
The Relationship Between Dark Chocolate and Sleep
Dark chocolate nutrients give us a hint of why eating it before bed could help with sleep. But we need to dig deeper to find out the exact reason for this effect.
Dark Chocolate contains an amino acid called tryptophan, which is proved to help with many disorders such as autism, depression, and cardiovascular disease.
Studies show that it also helps us with our sleep.
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that our body needs to make serotonin, which makes melatonin.
This hormone helps regulate the natural cycles of your sleep-wake cycle and can help you feel more relaxed before bedtime. Melatonin also promotes deep REM sleep, which may be why lots of people say they have better sleep at night after eating dark chocolate.
There are companies that add melatonin to their chocolate in order to boost the relaxing effect. It doesn’t really qualify as chocolate for me, but it’s an option to get the best of both worlds. We’re talking more about supplements than actual chocolate at this point.
In conclusion, dark chocolate helps people to sleep because of tryptophan. Tryptophan helps the body make melatonin, which is important for regulating sleep cycles.
Most other nutrients found in dark chocolate do not help with sleep, and in fact, some might hinder it. As with everything, this is a personal matter. If you aren’t sure, you can try eating a small portion of dark chocolate before going to bed and see how your body reacts.
Do it for about 10 days and check how you feel. Has your sleep improved? Then it might be a good idea to nibble on a bit of dark chocolate before going to bed. If you didn’t feel any change, or worse, you’ve had issues sleeping, then you should drop the idea.
You can still enjoy dark chocolate, just not after 5 PM. That’s usually the golden time, because by the time you go to bed, half of the caffeine will have been absorbed by the body.