With the Easter weekend in full swing, chances are you’re looking forward to overindulging on food and drink, especially chocolate Easter eggs. After eating your Easter lunch and copious amounts of Easter eggs (according to statistics from GWP Group, between 80-90 million chocolate eggs are eaten in the UK annually!), you might find yourself in need of a nap… but is chocolate to blame?
It’s a proven fact that certain foods can make you feel tired and even help you fall asleep faster at night on the best mattress. We’ve already looked into foods to eat for a good night’s sleep & foods to avoid, and chocolate often finds its way onto both lists.
But does chocolate make you feel sleepy and can it help you sleep better? It turns out the answer is both yes and no. Let’s look into it…
Does chocolate make you sleepy?
Milk, dark and white chocolate have many different properties that contribute to you feeling sleepy as well as feeling alert. Starting with the former, the main reason people believe chocolate encourages tiredness is because it’s high in tryptophan and serotonin.
Tryptophan is an amino acid that acts as a natural sleep aid by increasing the body’s production of melatonin (the ‘sleepy’ hormone) and serotonin (the ‘happy’ hormone). Both these hormones work together to regulate your mood, appetite, pain and sleep cycle, so if you have increased levels of tryptophan, melatonin and serotonin in your system, you’re likely to feel more relaxed and cheerful. Having said that, it does depend how much chocolate you eat, as you have to eat a large amount to feel the effects of tryptophan.
Another reason chocolate is said to promote sleep is because it’s high in carbohydrates. Carbs cause your blood sugar to rise quickly and increase the production of insulin in the body, which can result in you feeling tired and less alert. Coupling this with the fact that chocolate is high in sugar (milk and white have higher sugar levels than dark), this can lead to a sugar rush closely followed by a sugar crash.
According to Livestrong, a sugar crash is where “your body overcompensates for the extra sugar by rapidly dropping your blood glucose levels which can lead to a decrease in energy and feelings of sleepiness”. Other symptoms of a sugar crash include dizziness, hunger and shakiness, so having a sugar crash isn’t exactly recommended! But if you’re eating a lot of chocolate over Easter, a sugar crash will likely explain why you suddenly feel very energetic and then very lethargic.
On the flip side, chocolate can also disrupt your sleep as some types of chocolate contain caffeine. Caffeine does the opposite of making you feel sleepy and instead increases your energy levels and makes you feel more alert. However, similar to tryptophan, there isn’t a huge amount of caffeine in chocolate but this does act as a negative to the chocolate sleep myth. Hot chocolate is also dehydrating due to its sugar content, so when you’re trying to take a nap, you might feel too thirsty or uncomfortable to drift off.
So, does chocolate make you feel sleepy? In general, the answer is yes but it depends how much chocolate you consume. For those who are planning a chocolate-filled day this Easter weekend, check out how to have the perfect nap after you’ve won your Easter egg hunt.