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What is it about dark chocolate that keeps me up at night?

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  • What is it about dark chocolate that keeps me up at night?

    If I have too much dark chocolate (55-85%, depending on the bar (which is always Green & Black's)) in a day, regardless of timing, I tend to become jittery and hyperactive (without the crash) for a long time. Even eating 10 squares (~33g worth) of a 70% bar can have a noticeable impact on how fast I fall asleep and my overall sleep quality that night.

    Clearly, I'll be eating the bars in smaller portions from now on; but what does dark chocolate contain that makes me feel this way? I know that it contains caffeine (albeit in relatively small amounts), but is it possible that the other prevalent stimulant (theobromine) is the issue here? I'm completely Primal in all other respects; I don't consume any other stimulative substances at all, and my carb intake is very low (not a big fan of fruit). There's a noticeable difference in my sleep patterns when I abstain from dark chocolate, but I'm too much a chocoholic to give it up completely. 6 squares a day can't possibly be a bad thing, can it?

  • #2
    I don't know what it is that does that but I can tell you that it does it to me too! I cannot eat my usual 85% chocolate within a few hours of going to bed or it keeps me awake all night. Very annoying because it is at night time I usually feel like chocolate.
    Strangely though, alcohol does the same thing to me these days. I rarely drink coffee so not sure about whether it is caffeine in choc that does it.

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    • #3
      Could it simply be the sugar content? I understand there is a much lower percentage in dark chocolate but it could still be a factor.
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      • #4
        Originally posted by Tarosuma View Post
        I don't know what it is that does that but I can tell you that it does it to me too! I cannot eat my usual 85% chocolate within a few hours of going to bed or it keeps me awake all night. Very annoying because it is at night time I usually feel like chocolate.
        Strangely though, alcohol does the same thing to me these days. I rarely drink coffee so not sure about whether it is caffeine in choc that does it.
        I've drunk coffee about 5 times in my life, so I'm just as unsure as you are about the role of caffeine in making us feel this way. Thing is, even if I eat the chocolate before noon (before 10am on most days, actually), I can almost guarantee that my sleep will suffer later that night. The effects seem to completely pass overnight, when I wake up feeling groggy.

        Originally posted by Jonesy View Post
        Could it simply be the sugar content? I understand there is a much lower percentage in dark chocolate but it could still be a factor.
        It's certainly a possibility, because I seem to be a lot more sensitive to sugar in all forms since I began eating real foods. Mind you, the 70% bar in it's entirety has less than 20g of sugar in total, and my symptoms seem to worsen in correlation to the...darkness (?) of the bar. I believe that the actual cocoa content plays the most fundamental role in all of this, somehow.

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        • #5
          It's the caffeine.
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          • #6
            Originally posted by TheFastCat View Post
            It's the caffeine.
            +1. Exactly what I was going to say.
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            • #7
              Really? I guess I have never been that sensitive to caffiene. According to what I could find here http://www.health-benefits-of-dark-c...-caffeine.html the amount of dark chocolate the OP is consuming should have between 5-35 mg of caffiene which compared to brewed coffee at 65-192 mg seems like a very small amount to me.

              Our bodies are all different but 1/2 a cup of coffee's worth of caffiene at 10am disturbs sleep? Dang, sorry KG that must suck.

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              • #8
                There are only trace amounts of caffeine in chocolate.

                It is the theobromine which is abundant in most dark chocolate. While it has a milder stimulating effect than caffeine, it can still be long-acting and can definitely keep you up.

                I try not to eat dark chocolate after 4pm. It is darned hard to stick to that. Yesterday was crazy so I'd only had about 100 calories by the time I dragged my poor body home at 8:30pm for dinner. I ate just a few squares of chocolate with dinner, knowing I might well pay a bad price but hoping for the best.

                I was still awake and cursing myself at 1am.

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                • #9
                  If you've been eating chocolate daily, give your body a break for about a week. I was nearly addicted to chocolate a month or so ago -- I would eat nearly one bar of Green & Black's 85% dark chocolate every day. I started to have trouble sleeping, and my energy wasn't too great. I cut back the amount and tried eating it earlier in the day, both to no avail. It was difficult, but I went without chocolate for a week and my sleep almost instantly improved. Now, I'll have a small amount (20-40 grams) every few days; not only do I have no problem sleeping, but it tastes HEAPS better this way. :]

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by liss View Post
                    There are only trace amounts of caffeine in chocolate.

                    It is the theobromine which is abundant in most dark chocolate. While it has a milder stimulating effect than caffeine, it can still be long-acting and can definitely keep you up.

                    I try not to eat dark chocolate after 4pm. It is darned hard to stick to that. Yesterday was crazy so I'd only had about 100 calories by the time I dragged my poor body home at 8:30pm for dinner. I ate just a few squares of chocolate with dinner, knowing I might well pay a bad price but hoping for the best.

                    I was still awake and cursing myself at 1am.
                    I'm exactly the same. For me, the amount I eat per day has the biggest say in how well I'll sleep that night. The timing isn't too important for me, but I usually eat the chocolate first thing in the morning before breakfast. Theobromine definitely sounds like the culprit here; I can drink a cup of coffee in the morning and be completely fine (provided that it IS just one cup), but I'm not really a coffee fan in the first place.

                    Originally posted by tarek View Post
                    If you've been eating chocolate daily, give your body a break for about a week. I was nearly addicted to chocolate a month or so ago -- I would eat nearly one bar of Green & Black's 85% dark chocolate every day. I started to have trouble sleeping, and my energy wasn't too great. I cut back the amount and tried eating it earlier in the day, both to no avail. It was difficult, but I went without chocolate for a week and my sleep almost instantly improved. Now, I'll have a small amount (20-40 grams) every few days; not only do I have no problem sleeping, but it tastes HEAPS better this way. :]
                    I've been eating some every day for about 2 weeks now. I'm sticking to only 3 squares a day now (10g), and surprisingly it seems to be going well (despite starting today). I'll see how well such a small serving size (and only in the morning) will work out for me during the week. This will definitely help me financially as well; I'll be able to enjoy my chocolate more for less. Brilliant!

                    Despite all this, look at what I just bought earlier today:

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                    • #11
                      Look forward to hearing the results of your experiment, KG. I would have thought it was the caffeine (given you're not much of a coffee drinker), but seems you've ruled that out, so theobromine sounds like the culprit.

                      The only thing that keeps me wired that way is caffeine, as I don't drink coffee (well, on the few occasions that I have tried it - yikes!). The one kind of chocolate that I've really noticed kept me wide awake is some German stuff called Schokokola, which contains the triple-whammy combo of dark chocolate + coffee + cola. Lethal stuff - I believe they gave it to pilots in the Luftwaffe during WWII to keep them alert. It's delicious, but I can't have more than one piece of an evening or there goes my sleep.

                      I would really like to try Green & Black's coffee-flavoured chocolate, but I'm afraid it might have the same effect ...
                      I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.

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                      • #12
                        It has the same effect on me, and it's definately the darker the choc the worse the effect.

                        I also have an issue with gluten contamination of chocolate I think. Most brands are cross contaminated even if it's not in the ingredients. I am super, super sensitive to gluten and that also affects my sleep.
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                        • #13
                          oooo yes, I have most definitely experienced this eating extreme dark chocolate.. more specifically the G&B (It had been on sale 2/$5) My body and mind were so tired I just could not fall asleep. If I have ingested caffeine I usually don't feel tired and don't want to go to bed. It felt like something else, theobromine. I wanted to go to bed and was soooo tired so I know it wasn't caffeine. I chocked it up to caffeine from coffee I drink every morning so I tried quitting... turns out it was probably that dark chocolate I was eating!!!!!!!!!!!

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                          • #14
                            It's the theobromine. It's included in the same class of compounds as caffeine, so it behave similarly in your system, but I believe it also stays in your system longer than caffeine...so when you eat a dark chocolate bar, with a high % of cocoa, you're just getting a big amount of theobromine (compared to say a nestle chocolate bar or something) which is making you jittery or awake.

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