Anyone who suffers with any type of sleep disorder, such as insomnia or trouble falling asleep, will know that certain foods can make the condition worse. Chocolate (especially dark chocolate) is a known trigger and that might mean that it is off the menu – even at Easter. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There might be ways you can enjoy your chocolate at Easter and still get a good night’s sleep.
Easter is a religious festival, but 65% of people associate this time of the year with chocolate. It is known that in the UK, children will consume around 8,000 calories worth of chocolate eggs over the Easter period and let’s face it, adults are probably just as likely to over-indulge. In fact, 27% of parents admit to eating their child’s eggs… With £80 million being spent on Easter Eggs every year, it is clearly big business and aside from the obesity issue, it might be contributing to sleep problems too.
Why does chocolate interfere with sleep?
The reasons for chocolate spoiling our sleep relate to the three main stimulants that it contains. While these often improve our feelings of wellbeing (chocolate is sometimes associated with the feeling of being in love) they can cause havoc with our sleep patterns.
- Caffeine – yes, chocolate (or more accurately, the cocoa it is made from) contains caffeine. It varies in the amount it contains, with dark chocolate containing the most at around the same as a cup of tea for an average sized bar. For those who are sensitive to caffeine, the effect close to bedtime could result in problems dropping off.
- Sugar – we all know chocolate is sweet and sugar will interfere with your sleep due to how it enters your bloodstream. The initial hit of sugar will increase your energy and after a time, you will get a slump and maybe even become very hungry. None of this is good for your sleep.
- Theobromine – this stimulant is found in chocolate and is the reason it should never be given to dogs, who cannot metabolise it. It can cause your heart rate to increase and therefore it becomes more difficult to drift off to sleep.
How to eat your Easter chocolate and sleep well
The best way to avoid the stimulants in chocolate is to choose your chocolate carefully. White chocolate is high in sugar, but very low in caffeine and contains no theobromine. If you can find a low sugar version, it may be a good solution.
The other option is to time your Easter Egg-eating to give your body a chance to remove these stimulants from your system before bed. A chocolately breakfast might seem unusual, but it is likely the best time of the day to eat sweet treats.
You could also combine your chocolate with other foods that will slow absorption of the sugars. The best foods for this are protein-based such as (real) eggs, meat and even dairy products.
Easter only comes around once each year and so, you may feel that the sacrifice of your sleep is worth it. But by taking a few simple precautions, you might just have your eggs and get your sleep too.