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Does Hot Chocolate Help You Sleep?

Does Hot Chocolate Help You Sleep? (2023)

Last updated: 31.10.2023 Reading time: 9 Min.

With nearly three-quarters of Brits failing to meet the recommended seven to nine hours of nightly sleep, the search for effective sleep aids is more pressing than ever.

Among the contenders, hot chocolate emerges as a popular choice.

But does a hot chocolate help you sleep?

In this article, we delve into the facts to determine whether hot chocolate can be a bedtime ally in the quest for a peaceful slumber.

woman drinking hot chocolate

Does drinking hot chocolate help you sleep?

Hot chocolate contains several ingredients, including tryptophan and magnesium, that can help you get a good night's rest.

We explore each of these ingredients in more detail further down. 👇

Most studies focus on these individual ingredients instead of the hot chocolate beverage as a whole.

woman reading research
There is plenty of research on the ingredients in hot chocolate, but not on the drink itself.

The lack of direct research into hot chocolate's effect on sleep indicates that the results vary from person to person, and there are many external factors that also impact our sleep, like stress, illness and lifestyle.

So, is hot chocolate good before bed?

Ultimately, hot chocolate is not a proven scientific sleep aid.

But it is a warm, comforting and tasty beverage that can help you relax before bedtime.

How does hot chocolate help you sleep?

Hot chocolate isn’t exactly a medical solution to poor sleep or sleep problems, but it’s a tasty bedtime ritual. ☕

Considering the soothing qualities of this beverage, does a cup of hot chocolate help you sleep?

Let’s take a look at the benefits of drinking hot chocolate at night and the different ingredients that make you sleepier.

Warms the body

Temperature plays a significant role in the sleep process.

This leads us to the question: does hot chocolate help you sleep at night, particularly through its ability to regulate body temperature?

For the brain to transition into the crucial REM (rapid eye movement) sleep phase, your body needs to cool down by a few degrees at night time.

Warming up with a beverage like drinking chocolate before bed can actually aid in this cooling process.

By raising body temperature, blood vessels expand, facilitating heat dissipation and eventually helping the body cool down. 🧊

A warm bedtime drink can initiate this process, making it easier for the body to cool down later.

Includes tryptophan

Hot chocolate contains two ingredients: cocoa powder and warm milk.

In the context of its ingredients, it's pertinent to ask: does hot chocolate milk help you sleep, and how do its components contribute to restfulness?

Both milk and coca powder are rich sources of tryptophan, an amino acid known for its sleep-promoting properties.

It plays a crucial role in producing serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates sleep and mood.

Person asleep with cat
Tryptophan can help you get a great night’s sleep.

Tryptophan is a precursor to melatonin, the hormone responsible for regulating sleep-wake cycles.

The presence of tryptophan in cacao might contribute to the creation of serotonin and melatonin, potentially aiding in falling asleep more quickly.

Helps ease stress

Serotonin, the neurotransmitter promoted by tryptophan, has a dual role in sleep.

It helps regulate sleep-wake cycles and contributes to feelings of happiness and relaxation. 🧘

woman smiling on pillow
Go to bed happy after a cup of hot chocolate.

Drinking a cup of hot chocolate can trigger a surge in serotonin levels for some individuals, especially those who associate positive emotions with the drink.

This increase in serotonin can create a sense of contentment and relaxation, facilitating a smoother transition into sleep and potentially leading to a more restful night.

So, chocolate does have some health benefits! 😍

Contains magnesium

Dark chocolate, a common ingredient in hot chocolate, contains magnesium, an essential nutrient that might have sleep-related benefits.

Magnesium aids the body in coping with and adjusting to the circadian rhythm, our internal body clock that governs various physiological functions, including sleep.

This nutrient is found not only in dark chocolate but also in foods like leafy greens and nuts.

We explore the relationship between diet and sleep with micro-nutrionist, Muriel Bouquier Ouziel, in this article.

Try to find dark hot chocolate instead of milk chocolate to reap the benefits of magnesium. 🍫

It smells good

The power of scent should not be underestimated when it comes to sleep.

The comforting aroma of hot chocolate can evoke positive feelings and memories, potentially promoting relaxation.

Our olfactory sense is closely tied to emotional responses, and if someone associates the smell of hot chocolate with comfort, it can trigger feelings of relaxation and sleepiness.

This effect could be particularly pronounced for individuals with positive memories of the hot drink.

Are there downsides to drinking hot chocolate before bed?

Hot chocolate actually contains a few ingredients that could stop you from drifting off to sleep.

Sugar

As you savour the rich taste of hot chocolate, it's important to acknowledge the added sugar content as well.

Sugary indulgences, including hot chocolate, can cause spikes in blood sugar levels. 📈

woman awake in bed
Sugar before bed can leave you awake all night long.

While momentarily satisfying, these spikes are often followed by crashes that can disrupt your sleep.

Fluctuations in blood sugar can trigger wakefulness during the night, interrupting your deep sleep patterns.

Of course, you could try a sugar-free hot chocolate as a sleep remedy to see if that helps you drift off.

Caffeine

While hot chocolate doesn't boast the same caffeine content as a cup of coffee, it still contains a trace amount of this stimulant.

Cocoa naturally contains a small dose of caffeine.

Although it might not be enough to trigger a full-fledged bout of insomnia, it can be a concern for those highly sensitive to caffeine.

Even a modest amount of caffeine can affect sleep quality, causing restlessness and reducing the overall duration of sleep.

Theobromine

Theobromine, a relative of caffeine, is another compound in pure cocoa and hot chocolate.

While it's true that theobromine is milder than caffeine in terms of its stimulant effects, it's not entirely innocent when it comes to sleep.

Theobromine can mildly elevate your heart rate and trigger a sense of alertness.

For those particularly susceptible to stimulants, the presence of theobromine might disturb the delicate balance needed for a tranquil night's rest. 😴

Which other drinks can help you sleep?

Hot chocolate isn’t the only drink you can incorporate into your bedtime routine.

You could also try these warm drinks.

Herbal teas

An array of herbal teas, from chamomile to lavender, offer soothing flavours and aromas that help prepare your body for sleep. 🌿

After all, we’ve already discussed the benefits of calming aromas before bed.

Chamomile

Chamomile tea contains apigenin, an antioxidant that may promote sleepiness by binding to certain receptors in the brain.

This interaction can help inhibit anxiety and reduce nervous system activity, leading to a more tranquil transition into sleep.

Weighted blankets can also help reduce anxiety and encourage sleep as they stimulate natural hormones like melatonin, dopamine and serotonin.

Lavender

With its delicate floral notes, lavender tea can evoke a sense of calm.

Its aromatic properties have been associated with relaxation and improved sleep quality.

lavender on pillow
You could also put some lavender oil on your pillow.

The smell of lavender can be soothing if you’re having a bad mental health day.

Enjoy a nice cup of lavender tea, breathe in the aroma, and feel calm.

Valerian

Valerian root, often brewed into tea, is renowned for its potential sedative effects.

This herbal remedy has been used for centuries to alleviate anxiety and promote sleep.

woman sleeping next to clock
Catch some zzz’s after a cup of herbal tea!

Valerian contains compounds that interact with GABA receptors in the brain, contributing to calmness and relaxation.

While its earthy taste might not be as immediately inviting as other beverages, valerian tea could be a potent ally for those with sleep disorders.

As you wind down, consider trying a new herbal tea to guide you gently into a restful night's sleep.

Ovaltine

With its rich malt flavour, Ovaltine offers a softer alternative to hot chocolate.

With lower sugar content than hot chocolate mixes, Ovaltine provides a touch of sweetness without the risk of dramatic blood sugar spikes.

The warm liquid and its soothing taste make for a delightful prelude to bedtime.

You can also consider Horlicks, another popular malted milk drink with relaxation properties.

Warm milk

For generations, warm milk has been a time-honoured remedy for soothing restlessness and promoting sleep.

The science behind this tradition lies in the amino acid tryptophan, as we discussed earlier.

A comforting glass of warm milk can deliver a dose of tryptophan, potentially aiding the body's natural sleep processes.

If you’re dairy-free, almond milk also contains tryptophan for the same effect.

Besides, milk also includes plenty of calcium to keep your immune system and bones strong. 🥛

The ritualistic act of sipping warm milk serves as a calming bedtime routine, signalling to your body that it's time to wind down.

Honey and lemon tea

The combination of honey and lemon in a soothing cup of herbal tea can offer a double dose of sleep-inducing benefits.

Honey contains glucose, which can gently elevate insulin levels and promote the entry of tryptophan into the brain.

This helps the production of sleep-regulating neurotransmitters.

Lemon adds a refreshing twist while potentially contributing to relaxation.

The aromatic blend of flavours and the tea preparation ritual create a serene pre-sleep experience.

Sleep meditations can also help with relaxation before bed.

Can hot chocolate help you sleep?

Hot chocolate is not a medical sleep aid.

But does hot chocolate make you sleepy? Maybe.

The ritual of making and drinking a warm drink, such as hot chocolate or herbal tea, can help you relax into your bedtime routine.

You may also find some of the ingredients in hot chocolate, like magnesium and cocoa, help you sleep better.

But if you’re highly sensitive to caffeine or sugar, try sticking to a herbal tea instead.

Frequently asked questions

George arkley image

George

Content Writer

I’m always the first person to try the latest sleep hack - whether it’s drinking coffee or counting sheep. Now, I get to write about the latest sleep gadgets, mattresses and much more in a bid to help you find the perfect night’s sleep.

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