If someone dangled your significant other, your most precious candy bar, and a cup of your morning latte dangling from the edge of a cliff, how long would it be before you had the coffee and chocolate?
(You can tell your partner that you chose them, but we both know that you don’t always have time to come back to the barista for another brew. Don’t worry. It’s our secret. )
We now know that chocolate has some pretty solid health benefits, as we keep remembering every time we break into a snack during our third run of “The Notebook” this week. (Not sorry. Not even easy.)
So are we crushing our chances of getting a good night’s sleep by devouring chocolate right before bed? “Really?” Even if it’s the scene with the ducks and the rain and everything? Damn it, caffeine.
We’ve been snooping on your behalf to see if you can pause The Notebook and continue eating your chocolate before bed, or if you have to wait for the sun to come up to find out what happens.
(We know you’ve seen it before. This week. Twice.)
The simple answer: probably not. But the more complex answer: yes, chocolate contains caffeine in varying amounts. However, caffeine may not have to blame your post-chocolate sleep disorders.
On average, people consume around 110 to 260 milligrams of caffeine every day. The majority (70 to 90 percent) of caffeine users come from coffee and tea, the rest from other sources such as food.
But don’t get it ready before bed and think you know it. Some of us may be more sensitive to caffeine than others (especially those who don’t regularly drink coffee, soda, or tea).
These people can experience quite extreme alertness after consuming caffeine. It’s the adult version where you devour a whole pixie stick and go on a mission to dangle upside down from anything you can find.
(On this subject, we investigated whether chocolate is actually addictive.)
Plus, there may be another culprit lurking in chocolate, making it harder to catch Zzz.
New research points the finger at theobromine, a compound that also comes from cocoa beans. It has effects on the body similar to those of the vibrant coffee compound, and chocolate contains more theobromine than caffeine.
Research in this area still has a long way to go. But when it comes to those cute, brown pieces of joy, it’s safe to say that caffeine has its partners in crime. We look at you, Theobromine, you bloody villain.
If you want to play it safe, skip chocolate altogether at sunset. Better yet, try to keep chocolate-related activities before 3 p.m. as caffeine can stay in your system for up to 6 hours.
Better yet, eat chocolate before 3 p.m., but choose a healthier bar.
Let’s talk about numbers. Exactly how much caffeine is in the chocolate you eat? And are you getting too much caffeine in addition to your morning coffee and afternoon tea?
There is not necessarily a recommended daily intake for caffeine. However, the researchers suggested that most healthy people drink “lots of caffeine” when they are throwing back 400 milligrams or more a day.
Pregnant women have a much lower tolerance to caffeine, so the recommended intake shouldn’t be higher than 200 milligrams per day (although some think 300 milligrams is fine during pregnancy).
For now, use the following as a guide to help lay the groundwork for the amount of caffeine in your favorite chocolate treats.
Remember that a medium (480 grams) coffee contains 192 milligrams of caffeine.
According to the USDA Food Composition Database, this is what the caffeine servings look like in all of your favorite chocolate delivery systems:
- Dark chocolate (70 to 85 percent cocoa solids): 80 milligrams of caffeine per 100 grams
- Cocoa powder: 230 milligrams of caffeine per 100 grams (but you would really only use one tablespoon which provides 12.3 milligrams of caffeine)
- Dark (ish) chocolate (45 to 59 percent cocoa solids): 43 milligrams of caffeine per 100 grams
- Chocolate cake with chocolate icing: 6 milligrams of caffeine per 100 grams
- milk chocolate: 20 milligrams of caffeine per 100 grams
- Chocolate pudding cup: 2 milligrams per 100 grams
- Chocolate Chip Cookie: 11 milligrams of caffeine per 100 grams
- Chocolate Ice Cream: 3 milligrams of caffeine per 100 grams
1 small container (3.5 fluid ounces) = 2 milligrams
- Chocolate whole milk: 1 milligram of caffeine per 100 grams
- White chocolate: 0 milligrams of caffeine
The darker the chocolate, the higher the caffeine content. Dark may also have more nutritional benefits than lighter chocolate – but it doesn’t stop you from staying up at night.
Here’s how to make a hell of a good chocolate cake.
Chocolate has some caffeine in it, but very little compared to your average cup of coffee. It may contain other chemicals that make sleep difficult, but there is a simple test: eat some chocolate and see how it makes you feel.
At the end of the day, you know your body best, so do what feels right for you. We don’t know how your body reacts to smaller doses of caffeine – you’ve never met us. (Though we’d love to, you seem great.)
If that means you enjoy the occasional glass of milk and chocolate chip cookie as a dreamy, low-caffeine biscuit, so do you.
Sleep disorders are not a picnic. For people who find passport control a bit strict in the Land of Nod, we’ve got you.
Now tell us again how many letters you have sent, Mr. Gosling …