Does Chocolate Give You Nightmares?

  Reviewed
 by Dr. Steve Hruby, D.C.
Reviewed by Dr. Steve Hruby, D.C.

SuperHumans are the toughest, fittest, healthiest and happiest human beings on this planet. My mission is to help you realize your superhuman potential and learn how to live a long, happy and healthy life.

  Fact Checked
 by Rhealyn Tropia, RMT
Reviewed by Rhealyn Tropia, RMT

I’m a content organizer, fact-checker and super mom who ensures content is medically-reviewed, highly accurate, and engaging. My passion is organizing information and ensuring the facts are presented in a manner that is interesting and easy to understand.

does chocolate give you nightmares

“Does chocolate give you nightmares?”

 The word ‘chocolate’ comes from a Nahuatl word, ‘xocolatl’, meaning bitter water. Chocolate is a popular dessert. It’s made from the seeds of the cacao tree and sweetened with sugar, often eaten as a snack or dessert.

People often turn to chocolate as a sweet reward, reaching for a bar to get some sugar in their blood for an instant upper. Anything consumed is then converted to the feel-good brain chemical called “dopamine”. But it’s wrong to say that chocolate just makes you feel more ‘happy.’ It could also cause negative in both physical (pale skin, acne) and psychological (nightmares) sense.

But does chocolate cause bad dreams? Let’s take a closer look at the information we have on hand so far.

How Chocolate Is Related to Nightmares

Does chocolate give you nightmares?

Chocolate doesn’t cause nightmares, but it can make them worse. Some studies have shown that high doses of caffeine can cause nightmares, and since chocolate contains caffeine, this may be one reason why some people experience them after eating chocolate. However, there are other factors to consider.

Some people may be more likely than others to experience nightmares when they eat chocolate because of their genetics or how their brain processes chemicals in the body. For example, people sensitive to serotonin may have more nightmares when they consume foods that increase serotonin levels, like chocolate.

Other foods that increase serotonin levels include cheese and red wine. Some people also report having more frequent nightmares when they consume large amounts of sugar or carbohydrates.

Why Does Chocolate Give People Nightmares?

The short answer is that we don’t fully understand the relationship between chocolate and nightmares—but we do know that they’re related.

chocolate bars

So what’s going on here?

A lot of things can give people nightmares. Traumatic events and stressful experiences have been known to trigger them. The same goes for sleep deprivation, which can make your body produce more adrenaline, which can trigger anxiety or fear.

And then there are the chemicals in chocolate that may or may not be directly related to causing nightmares, like caffeine and tryptophan (which is also found in turkey).

Chocolate also contains a substance called theobromine, which is related to caffeine and has been known to cause sleep disturbances. This can lead to nightmares. Theobromine is found in dark chocolate more than milk chocolate, but even light-colored bars can have enough theobromine to cause this effect.

Is Dark Chocolate Healthier?

There are a few reasons why dark chocolate is considered healthier than other kinds of chocolate. First, it has more antioxidants than other types of chocolate, which means it can help fight off free radicals in your body.

Second, it has less sugar than milk and white chocolates do—this means that those who are trying to watch their sugar intake might want to switch over to dark chocolate instead. Finally, it’s been shown that consuming dark chocolate can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

So while I can’t say for sure that eating dark chocolate will prevent nightmares (I’ve never tested this), I do know that it’s better for your health than milk or white chocolates.

What Happens if You Eat Chocolate Before Going to Sleep?

The effects of eating chocolate on your sleep quality depend on how much and what kind of chocolate you eat.

For example, eating a large amount of dark chocolate every night may affect your sleep quality because it contains caffeine, a stimulant that can make it harder for you to fall asleep. A small piece or two of milk or white chocolate doesn’t contain enough caffeine to have this effect and may actually help you fall asleep faster by relaxing your muscles and calming your mind.

I mentioned earlier that chocolate also contains theobromine, which is a stimulant. This means that it can make you feel awake even when your body needs rest—which can lead to poor sleep quality. The combination of caffeine and stimulants like theobromine means that eating chocolate late in the day can lead to poor sleep quality and even insomnia.

Does Hot Chocolate Aid Sleep?

Can hot chocolate help you sleep?

person holding white coffee mug

While we love hot chocolate as much as the next person, there’s no evidence that drinking it will help you sleep. In fact, it might do just the opposite: many people find that the caffeine in chocolate actually makes them more awake.

So if you’re looking for something to help you unwind at night, we suggest passing on the hot cocoa and instead reaching for some warm milk or a relaxing bath before bed.

Why Does Eating Sugar Before Bed Cause Nightmares?

When you eat sugar, it gets absorbed into your bloodstream pretty quickly. That makes it available to your brain, which is where it gets processed as a “feel good” chemical called serotonin.

Serotonin helps regulate your mood and appetite, so when you get enough of it, you’re less likely to feel depressed or stressed out—and more likely to be satisfied by what you eat.

But there’s a catch: when too much serotonin gets released into the brain all at once (like after eating lots of sugar), the brain stops responding to it as strongly as usual. So when you eat something sweet after dinner, you might feel really good for a few minutes, but then an hour or two later? You might crash hard and find yourself waking up in the middle of the night with intense dreams.

Somewhere in Dreamland: Frequently Asked Questions

Why Do I Have Nightmares After Eating Chocolate?

Chocolate is a complex food, and it’s not just the sugar that can cause you to have nightmares.

Chocolate contains caffeine and phenylethylamine (PEA), two substances that can trigger the release of adrenaline in your body. This results in an increased heart rate, faster breathing, and increased blood pressure.

When this happens while you’re sleeping, it can cause your brain to create vivid dreams that are intense or frightening. It’s also possible for these symptoms to wake you up during the night as well.

What Foods Give You Nightmares?

What are the foods that cause weird dreams?

There are actually foods that can cause nightmares, and it’s not as common as you might think. 

sleeping woman with an eye mask on

The main culprit is caffeine. 

When you eat or drink coffee, tea, or soda before bedtime, it stimulates your central nervous system and can keep you awake longer than usual. That means when you finally fall asleep, it might be harder for your body to relax and get into REM sleep (the part of sleep where dreams typically occur), and this can lead to nightmares.

Because of this, it’s important to limit your intake of caffeine if you’re having trouble sleeping—and especially to avoid stimulants like coffee and energy drinks before bedtime.

Another food that has been said to cause nightmares is cheese. Cheese contains tryptophan, a sleep-inducing amino acid. This means that eating cheese before bedtime may actually help you fall asleep faster than usual—but be aware that it could also result in more vivid dreams as well. I wrote a post about this, on whether we can consider sleepwalking induced by cheese as a real deal or not.

Another reason that possibly causes nightmares is alcohol consumption within several hours of bedtime.

Can Chocolate Give You Dreams?

Does chocolate make you dream? You might have heard that eating chocolate before bed will make you dream, but is it true?

The short answer: NO. While some studies show that eating a small amount of chocolate may help you sleep better at night, there’s no evidence that eating chocolate will give you nightmares.

But why does this myth persist? It seems to be because of the way that the caffeine in chocolate affects the body. Caffeine is a stimulant, so when it’s absorbed into your bloodstream, it makes your heart beat faster and your brain more alert.

When you’re awake and engaged in activities, this helps to keep your mind from wandering off into dreamland; however, when you sleep, these effects actually make it harder for you to fall asleep and stay asleep. This is one reason why many people find it difficult to sleep after drinking coffee or eating chocolate late at night—it keeps them awake.

Conclusion

All in all, I can’t say that I’d recommend giving up your chocolate habit entirely. But if you’re having trouble sleeping, and so happen to love chocolate, maybe go easy on the dessert. Reduce the amount of dark chocolate you eat throughout the week or temporarily reduce consumption altogether. And don’t forget to always talk to a doctor if your sleeping problems persist for more than two weeks.

While you’re at it, try adding natural supplements to your daily regimen, such as Serenity. It is packed with natural ingredients that will help your mind and body recover well from any stress, promote better sleep, and ultimately give you more energy for the next day.

Curious about other hot topics on sleep? Check out these posts I wrote on Adderall and melatonin interaction, as well as considering adaptogen for sleep.

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