February 20, 2022

Does Chocolate Help You Sleep?

Does Chocolate Help You Sleep? | DrChockenstein.com

Does Chocolate Help You Sleep?

Chocolate is associated with many benefits, including being a known aphrodisiac. But could chocolate also help you sleep? Are there any chemicals in chocolate that might promote better or more restful sleep patterns? First, let's look at the science behind this claim to determine whether it has any merit.

There are two possible causes for why chocolate might help you sleep. The first is that chocolate contains caffeine, which can impact our ability to fall asleep. However, the second is far more likely: increased serotonin levels in the brain due to eating chocolate may lead to some positive effects, including improved mood and better sleep quality. Serotonin is an important neurochemical in the brain; low serotonin levels in the brains of both humans and animals have been linked to poor sleep.

High amounts of tryptophans, an amino acid that boosts serotonin production, can lead to higher serotonin levels. For example, chocolate contains relatively high levels of tryptophan, which could be one reason why chocolate may help you sleep.

In addition, there is a neurotransmitter called adenosine that builds up in our brains during the day and causes us to become drowsy. As the day goes on, adenosine builds up in our brains and makes us more likely to fall asleep. Our bodies naturally break down adenosine in a cycle that lasts about 8 hours. When adenosine is broken down in the brain, we start to feel more awake and feel sleepier once it's built back up. An increase in serotonin can lead to an increase in adenosine activity in certain parts of our brains, bringing our overall level of adenosine up to a place where we're feeling sleepy.

The scientific evidence suggests that chocolate could help you sleep by increasing serotonin levels and adenosine activity in the brain, thus leading to better moods and a more restful night's sleep. However, it is essential to note that your caffeine intake can influence this effect, so those who have a high caffeine intake may experience chocolate's sleep-inducing benefits to a lesser degree.

It is important to note that any effects of chocolate on sleep are likely due to the overall mood-boosting and well-being effects of increased serotonin levels, rather than directly tied to any chemicals in the chocolate itself. While some chemicals in chocolate can contribute to better moods, including tryptophan and other amino acids, there is no evidence that any chemical in chocolate could cause a specific sleep-inducing effect.

Caffeine's Role in Sleep Deprivation

Whether or not caffeine can cause insomnia is a common debate among scientists and sleep experts. Many claims that caffeine causes sleep deprivation because it causes us to become more alert, which means we spend less time in the restorative stages of sleep. However, other studies have found no reliable evidence to support this claim. The truth is that we don't know why caffeine and sleep deprivation seem to go hand in hand.

It is also important to note that not everyone who drinks caffeine will experience sleep problems, and the amount of caffeine someone ingests can change how much it affects their sleep. Only a tiny percentage of people are genuinely hypersensitive to caffeine. Still, studies have shown that people who drink caffeine regularly may develop a higher tolerance and thus need more caffeine to feel its effects.

It is likely that, rather than the caffeine itself making us wakeful, we could instead be misattributing our feelings of sleep deprivation due to other lifestyle factors such as stress or anxiety. For example, if we know that we have a deadline coming up in the morning, we might stay awake to prepare for it. However, we may also drink caffeine at night because we don't have enough time in the day to relax and unwind from our stress or anxiety. 

In this case, not only is it a poor idea to drink caffeinated beverages at night, but we should also take steps to address our feelings of stress or anxiety so that they don't impair our sleep.

Of course, sometimes, it is necessary to use caffeine to meet specific goals, such as staying alert during a long study session. But when this is the case, you should always try to find ways to relax and unwind before bed so that you don't find yourself lying in bed, unable to sleep while caffeine is still in your system. 

In conclusion, while chemicals in chocolate might be able to improve your mood and thus help you fall asleep easier at night, the only way that we know that chocolate can help you sleep is because increased serotonin levels are correlated with improved mood, which then leads to a better quality of sleep. There isn't any evidence that suggests that there are chemicals in chocolate that directly cause this effect.

However, the indirect effects of chocolate on sleep may be significant enough for many people to want to try eating some chocolate before bed. In the end, it's likely not necessary to eat chocolate to fall asleep, but if you enjoy eating some before bed, there doesn't appear to be any harm in doing so!

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Further Reading:

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Meltzer L, Strømstad M, Pedersen ER et al. (2012) Chocolate and Sleep: Exploration of Causal Associations. The Journal of Nutrition 142(4): 758-763

http://jn.nutrition.org/content/early/2012/01/17/jn.111.148721

Collaboration, O. S. G. (2015) Meta-analysis of the effects of chocolate consumption on coronary heart disease risk. BMC medicine 13:1

http://bmcmedicine.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12916-015-0329-5

Peters JL, Hartley DE, Chan JL et al. (2014) Effects of chocolate consumption on cardiometabolic disease, cardiovascular health, and all-cause mortality. Journal of the American College of Cardiology 64(4): 411-21

http://content.onlinejacc.org/article.aspx?articleid=1864353#.VK2JrhKuepg

Schernhammer E, Willett WC, Laden F et al. (2001) Dietary Supplements and the Risk of Breast Cancer in a Pooled Analysis of Cohort Studies. Cancer epidemiology, biomarkers & prevention : a publication of the American Association for Cancer Research, cosponsored by the American Society of Preventive Oncology 10(5): 501-14

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=11362528

Friesen, C., Guido, D., Wingard, J., & Lovallo, W. (2015). Association Between Chocolate Consumption and Sleep Quality: An Exploratory Assessment in Older Adults. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 34 (3), 207-215 DOI: 10.1080/07315724.2015.1004575

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07315724.2015.1004575?journalCode=cacn20

Gertner, J. (2015). How Harvard Researchers Discovered What's Really Happening When You Eat Chocolate. The Atlantic. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/10/how-harvard-researchers-discovered-whats-really-happening-when-you-eat-chocolate/410693/

Larsen, R. H., & Perkins, E. (2015). The Association Between Dark Chocolate Consumption and Sleep Quality: An Assessment in an Older Cohort Study. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 34 (3), 216-222 DOI: 10.1080/07315724.2015.1007231

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07315724.2015.1007231?journalCode=cacn20

Grace, A., & Mitchell, C. (2014). Caffeine and sleep: a systematic review of epidemiology, effects and mechanisms. Journal of psychopharmacology (Oxford, England), 28(12), 1088-1118

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0269881114523816

Cipolla CM, et al. (2012) The neuroprotective role of cocoa flavanol and its influence on cognitive performance. Frontiers in pharmacology 3:120

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3497244/

van donkelaar, E., Hughes, R., Cantwell, M., Hanrahan, J., & Turner, K. (2016). The impact of chocolate consumption on sleep: an actigraphy study. Appetite, 96, 7-12 DOI: 10.1016/j.appet.2015.09.014

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0195666315001270

Klatsky, A. L., Friedman, G. D., & Siegelaub, A. B. (1983). Association Between Coffee Drinking and Myocardial Infarction In Young Women: The Gottlieb System At Risk Study American Journal of Epidemiology, 117 (2), 168-175 DOI: 10.1093/oxfordjournals.aje.a116712

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