Why You Should Never Eat Chocolate Before Bed

If its near bedtime and you have the feeling that you just have to have a piece of chocolate, nutritionists say you may want to talk yourself out of the urge. This is particularly good advice if you find that after indulging in some late night decadence, you're losing sleep, which can be cause by the compounds found in the world's most favorite candy.

You probably already know that chocolate contains caffeine — the same stimulant that's found in our morning cup of java. What you may not know is that the amount of caffeine you might find in chocolate varies from type to type. The New York Times reports that there are nine milligrams of caffeine in "a 1.5-ounce Hershey's milk chocolate bar," which is the equivalent of three cups of decaf. If you're partial to dark chocolate, however, you might find that that's more likely to keep you up at night, because it's got more caffeine. The same size serving of Hershey's dark delivers the same caffeine punch "as a cup of instant tea" at 40 mg.

Chocolate has theobromine, which can also keep you awake

In addition to caffeine, chocolate has one other compound that could keep you up at night, and it's one we hardly ever talk about. Theobromine is mostly found in cocoa beans, and because it is an alkaline, it belongs to the same chemical family as caffeine. According to Frontiers in Pharmacology, theobromine and caffeine work hand in hand not just to boost our enjoyment of foods that have these compounds, like chocolate, but they also raise our mood and alertness levels.

Theobromine levels in chocolate work the same way caffeine levels do — the darker the chocolate, the more caffeine and theobromine you'll find. It is because of this that the National Sleep Foundation recommends you give chocolate, coffee, tea, and soft drinks a hard pass before bedtime (via The New York Times). And if you must have chocolate, registered dietitian Cassie Christopher tells Health Digest that you're best having "a small square of dark chocolate," which might have slightly elevated levels of theobromine and caffeine, but will also have less of the sugar that can act as an extra stimulant, which you don't need before bedtime.