Have you ever noticed that you start to feel sleepy after eating chocolate? It’s not just because you’re crashing down after a sugar high, there’s actually good, scientific reasons why chocolate can make you sleepy.
Eating chocolate can make your eyes heavy, lower your blood pressure, and lead to a boost in serotonin. Some people are simply big fans of chocolate itself and have the need for this comforting food throughout their day.
However, many people seek out chocolate as an antidote to stress or depression due to the effects that it has on neurotransmitters in the brain and mood regulation chemicals such as serotonin or dopamine.
Chocolate is so commonly used as an antidepressant because it releases feel-good endorphins causing euphoric feelings that help resist uncomfortable feelings such as stress or depression. In small amounts, chocolate can naturally boost your serotonin levels and make you feel better.
The majority of the serotonin in the brain is produced in the Raphe nuclei in the brain stem and is also found throughout the central nervous system. Serotonin controls mood by regulating anxiety, aggression and pleasure but it is also used by nearly every organ in the body.
There are many reasons why chocolate can make you feel tired and sleepy.
Why Chocolate Makes You Sleepy
Tryptophan – one of the reasons chocolate makes you sleepy is that it is a good source of tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid that is needed for the production of serotonin and melatonin, which help regulate the sleeping and waking patterns.
In a healthy person, tryptophan will be converted into serotonin and melatonin to encourage sleep. However, if tryptophan levels are too high, it can lead to insomnia or trouble sleeping.
Chocolate has a high amount of tryptophan so it could actually make you have trouble sleeping since it provides an ample amount of the amino acid that is needed for serotonin and melatonin production. So, it’s all about getting the balance right.
Caffeine – Caffeine has a stimulating effect on the central nervous system by blocking adenosine receptors in the brain and acting as a stimulant. When caffeine is consumed, it increases activity in the brain and central nervous system.
This causes your blood pressure to increase and heart rate to go up. Because of this, chocolate makes you sleepy because it provides a boost in neurotransmitters like dopamine that help regulate your mood and make you feel good.
Serotonin – Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps improve mood regulation by controlling feelings of happiness, anger, depression and anxiety. Chocolate actually leads to a boost in serotonin levels naturally through the consumption of tryptophan found in the food.
The food also contains sugar which leads to an increase in another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Dopamine is used by the brain for pleasure or reward feelings that can help fight depression symptoms naturally.
Tyramine – Chocolate contains tyramine which is another neurotransmitter that can also be found in cheese, red wine and Asian food. Tyramine can cause problems with blood pressure and blood flow, but when it is combined with caffeine, it has been shown to increase the effects of chocolate to make you sleepy.
Eating chocolate after lunch or dinner could have a stronger effect on your sleeping patterns because of the combination of tyramine and dopamine in chocolate. Both chemical compounds help your body relax by causing drowsiness or contributing to feelings of pleasure that make you tired at night time.
Phenylethylamine – Chocolate also contains a chemical called phenylethylamine. Phenylethylamine is an amphetamine-like compound that is actually a stimulant, but it can also aid in sleeping by increasing the amount of dopamine in the brain.
This chemical compound causes feelings of pleasure and excitement which can be caused from chocolate consumption. This may help you fall asleep faster because it promotes good feelings that could result in you feeling tired.
Magnesium – Chocolate is also high in magnesium which is a natural mineral for the body. Magnesium is also found in a variety of fruits and vegetables which could be healthier sources for your magnesium intake, but at least you know your chocolate treat is giving your body some of what it needs.
Magnesium helps people with sleep disorders get to sleep faster and better because it is known to slow down heart rhythms and lower blood pressure.
Magnesium is also beneficial for people who suffer from restless legs. It also helps you to relax by decreasing physical activity and regulating the release of hormones that affect your mood.
Chocolate contains many chemicals that can send your body into relaxation mode. Enjoying some chocolate before bedtime can help you fall asleep easier and hopefully achieve a deeper, more restful sleep.
Of course, chocolate is also high in sugars and fats so moderation is important to keep your body healthy, but now you can enjoy your bedtime chocolate treat safe in the knowledge that a piece (or two) of chocolate will actually help you sleep!