If you struggle to fall asleep and stay there for a full night's rest, you might be willing to try anything to help you drop off. It's no secret that some foods can keep you awake (looking at you, mocha cappuccino) while others might bring on drowsiness (Thanksgiving turkey, anyone?). What you eat a few hours before bedtime can make or break your ability to settle down into dreamland if you're not careful.
But what about chocolate? It's one of the most studied foods out there, and it tends to be an ultra-popular ingredient in desserts, so it's likely to be on the list of the last foods you eat before bed. Is that a good idea?
Food for Sleep (and for Thought)
Conventional wisdom has warned against eating too much chocolate before bed because it contains caffeine. The amount varies depending on the type and the manufacturer, but in general an ounce of chocolate can have anywhere between 3 and 160 mg of caffeine in it, with dark chocolate containing more of the stimulant than milk chocolate. On average, a whole milk chocolate bar has about as much caffeine as a cup of decaf, but a whole bar of dark chocolate would be more like a regular cup of coffee.
On the other hand, chocolate is on the list of tryptophan foods, which includes famous natural sleep aids like turkey and warm milk. Tryptophan is a naturally occurring chemical that helps your body produce serotonin, which is a brain compound that helps to boost your mood and helps to regulate sleep. Dark chocolate contains serotonin, too, so both of these chemicals help flood your brain with neurotransmitters that make your feel relaxed — and maybe even a bit sleepy. Dark chocolate has many more of these compounds than milk chocolate does.
The bottom line? The darker the chocolate, the more caffeine and serotonin it may contain. These could cancel each other out when it comes to sleep, but you may have luck if you look for decaf dark chocolate products.
Chocolate Sleep Aids
In an effort to harness the natural goodness of chocolate, some manufacturers have begun making supplements and sleep aids in a candy form. Good Day Chocolate Sleep is a clever, candy-coated chocolate that also contains 1 mg of melatonin, a known sleep aid. Melatonin is a natural hormone that helps your body regulate your sleep cycle so that you feel tired when you're supposed to — at night, not during the day.
If you're feeling jet-lagged or out of sorts, it might be able to help you get back on the right track — especially if you take a sweet bite along with making some changes to your overall sleep hygiene, including going to bed at the same time each night, avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bed, and keeping your bedroom at a cool, comfortable temperature.
Whether or not sleep chocolate works for you will take some trial and error to discover. Whether your body is more sensitive to the caffeine or the tryptophan probably depends on you, but it's a relatively harmless thing to try if you're looking for a little help in the sleep department. For sleep chocolate with added melatonin, the manufacturers recommend starting with just one piece to see how it affects you first. At best, you'll fall asleep faster; at worst, you'll at least have enjoyed a yummy bedtime snack!