It’s no wonder that chocolate coated confections are the prime gift to give on Valentine’s Day. Some claim that, “Chocolate can stir affection and awaken the taste buds…” (O’Connor). While this may occur, there are some important things to know about this sugary delight and how it can affect you and your Valentine’s sleep. Before we look too much at the cost of chocolate and sleep, there’s the mischievous alcohol to be aware of as well.

Let’s start with that box of chocolates. Chocolate contains varying amounts of caffeine. Here’s a quick look at a Hershey’s chocolate bar. “A 1.5-ounce Hershey’s milk chocolate bar, for example, contains nine milligrams, about three times as much caffeine as a cup of decaffeinated coffee. But a dark chocolate Hershey’s candy bar has far more: about 30 milligrams. That is the same as a cup of instant tea, and slightly less than a typical cup of brewed tea, about 40 milligrams” (O’Connor). The science doesn’t stop there!

As many know, caffeine is a stimulant and it works for several hours. If consumed later in the evening, caffeine will disrupt sleep. It is also a dehydrant, which means more frequent bathroom breaks. These too can cause a disruption in sleep.

Chocolate also contains another stimulant; one many pet owners may recognize as it is dangerous to cats and dogs: theobromine. This compound not only increases the heart rate, but it also causes sleeplessness. It can be found in, you guessed it, chocolate. There may be a small amount of it in most chocolate, but the darker the chocolate, the more theobromine there is (O’Connor).

Alcohol, such as that in Champagne and other celebratory drinks, is also on the naughty list when it comes to sleep disruption. “Wine, beer and liquor can all help you fall asleep faster … but experts agree that if you drink before bed, you’re more likely to wake up throughout the night and get less deep sleep” (Cuffey). Drinking too close to when you would normally go to bed can not only disrupt sleep, but it can impact your cognitive functions (brainpower) the next day.

The good news? These wonderful gifts don’t have to be avoided entirely. If you want to make sure your Valentine has a great night’s sleep, it’s best to avoid eating chocolate six hours before bed or drinking alcohol four hours before bed. Have a sweet holiday and sweeter dreams!

Some related articles you may find more informative on the subject include: Travel, Sleep, & Beverages; Food Induced Nightmares, If You Must…, and The Dark Side of Valentine’s Day.

Resources:

O’Connor, Anahad. “The Claim: Chocolate Can Be Disruptive to Sleep.” The New York Times. January 2009, https://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/13/health/13real.html. Accessed 17 January 2020. Cuffey, Abigail. “How Alcohol Messes With Your Sleep — And What You Can Do About It.” HuffPost. July 2017, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/how-alcohol-affects-sleep_n_595fbd02e4b0615b9e91273c. Accessed 17 January 2020.