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Does Chocolate Cause Nightmares?: A Guide to Chocolate and Bad Dreams

You wake up in a sweat in the middle of the night, gasping for air, and vividly recalling every detail of your bad dream.


As you calm down and begin to drift off to sleep, you wonder what could have caused your nightmare in the first place.


Was it something you watched on TV? Or maybe it was that delicious piece of chocolate you ate right before bed.


But wait… Does chocolate give you bad dreams?


In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about chocolate, bad dreams, and taking back a good night’s sleep.


Table of Contents

  • How Chocolate is Linked to Bad Dreams

  • Why Does Chocolate Cause Nightmares?

  • Is Dark Chocolate Better For You?

  • Should I Stop Eating Chocolate if I Have Nightmares?

  • Other Foods That May Be Causing Bad Dreams

  • The True Cause of Your Nightmares

  • Having Bad Dreams?: Keep a Journal

  • How Can You Take Control of Your Dreams?

How Chocolate is Linked to Bad Dreams

With so much conflicting information online, it’s hard to know what to believe these days.

However, chocoholics need not worry — for the most part.


Although a certain sleep disorder called rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder (RBD), which is present in only one in 200 people, could be exasperated by eating chocolate, the average person doesn’t have to worry.


Chocolate itself has been used for centuries for its power to reduce stress and anxiety.


Researchers now know that this power comes from the chemical tryptophan which the body used to produce the neurotransmitter, serotonin.


Serotonin is essential for the production of melatonin, the hormone that helps regulate sleep.


Sounds like chocolate might actually be beneficial as a nighttime snack. Let’s find out.


Why Does Chocolate Cause Nightmares?

If you suspect chocolate as the culprit for a restless night of bad dreams, you may be surprised to learn that it’s probably not the chocolate at all.


Some believe that the sugar and caffeine in chocolate could be what’s causing you to toss and turn.


Let’s take a closer look at this research.


Caffeine

We all know that caffeine is a stimulant… coffee, anyone?

Excessive intake of caffeine and other stimulants are known to cause nightmares.


But, is there not caffeine in chocolate?

Yes, but the amount of caffeine is so minuscule you would need to eat a lot of chocolate throughout the day for it to have any negative effect on you.


For every 100 grams of dark chocolate (about two and a half regular-sized chocolate bars), you’ll find 43mg of caffeine. The average cup of coffee is between 80-100mg.

That’s a lot of dark chocolate.

As for caffeine, the FDA states that a healthy adult should consume no more than 400mg a day.


So, it’s best to avoid that 10th chocolate bar — if you can.

Milk chocolate, on the other hand, has a little less caffeine, but it’s also loaded with sugar in comparison to dark chocolate.


Sugar

Ah, sugar. Who doesn’t like a sweet treat once in a while?


But did you know that sugar can actually wreak havoc on your sleep patterns, and ultimately cause sleep disturbances and bizarre dreams?


Now, we aren’t suggesting that you never eat sugar again, but let’s look at how you can reduce your intake and find alternatives that satisfy that sweet tooth.


When some people think of chocolate, their minds automatically drift to the chocolate Easter bunnies they ate as children or the decadent milk chocolate bars with fruits and nuts.


However, these milk chocolate treats are more than just chocolate… they’re sugar.

One popular milk chocolate bar packs a whopping 25g of sugar in a 45g bar. According to the American Heart Association, that’s one hundred percent of the daily recommended sugar intake for women in a single little treat.


Why are we telling you all this?


There is a better, darker, and more decadent way to enjoy your favorite treat. And yes, it’s still chocolate.


Is Dark Chocolate Better for You?

Consumed in moderation, the many health benefits of dark chocolate that contains 70-85% cacao are well documented and include:

  • Highly nutritious

  • High in antioxidants

  • Improves blood flow and lowers blood pressure

  • Promotes good cholesterol

  • May reduce the risk of heart disease

  • Protects the skin from the sun

  • May improve brain function

Sounds great, right? But, could dark chocolate be the source of bad dreams?

We don’t think so. In fact, dark chocolate has actually been linked to a better, more restful night’s sleep.


On top of containing the power of serotonin, dark chocolate is rich in magnesium, a mineral well known for aiding in restorative sleep.

But, what about all that caffeine?


Again, we believe in moderation as the key to success with dark chocolate. Experts suggest no more than 30-60gr per day.


Stick with portion control and dark chocolate can prove to be beneficial to your overall health, and your sleep.


Want more from your chocolate?


Try Portland Chocolate Factory’s Dream Chocolate for a three-night self-guided journey into dream awareness.

Cocoa vs Cacao

When buying chocolate take a closer look at what you’re actually getting.

The differences between cocoa and cacao are numerous. But, which one is better for you, and why?


Cacao, once harvested, goes through a few processing steps that include:

  • Fermentation

  • Drying

  • Roasting

  • Crushing

  • Grinding

Cocoa, on the other hand, is far more processed and contains more...

  • Sugar

  • Milk

  • Fat

...than cacao does, making it a less healthy option.

The bottom line? Look for chocolates that use cacao, rather than cocoa.

You’ll be far less likely to experience sleep problems, and you’ll be improving your health in the meantime.


Should I Stop Eating Chocolate if I Have Nightmares?

Does chocolate make you have nightmares?


The answer — if you’re eating the right chocolate — is no.

So, should you stop eating chocolate if you are having nightmares? Also, no.

You can enjoy your favorite treat almost any time of the day, but again, in moderation.

Indulging in too much of anything can cause changes in your body that ultimately result in sleep disturbances.


A restless night’s sleep can often lead to bizarre or disturbing dreams.

However, if you are consistently having nightmares, it’s recommended that you see a sleep specialist, as it’s likely not related to changes in your diet at all.

Chances are, you could have a nightmare disorder. While rare in adults, they are possible and can lead to:

  • Distress

  • Sleep disruptions

  • Daytime functioning

  • Fear of falling asleep

Occasional bad dreams are usually nothing to worry about and are often related to anxiety, late-night snacking, or even medications.

Other Foods That May Be Causing Bad Dreams

Now that we know it’s likely not the delicious morsels of dark chocolate giving you the occasional heart-pounding night of bad dreams, could it be something else you’re eating?

In one study, dairy came up as the most frequently blamed food — with 39-44% of participants pointing their finger at nighttime cheese snacks — for causing sleep disturbances.


But what is it about these foods that people claim are causing them nightmares? Where is the concrete proof?


Let’s have a look at what’s been said about some foods most often accused of causing bad dreams.


Cheese Please?: Maybe Not

Cheese. It’s hard to come across a person that doesn’t have some sort of love affair with cheese.


As with chocolate, cheese is a universally loved food. Stinky, moldy, aged — you name it, people love it.


Though it’s loved the world around, it definitely has the worst reputation in the dream world.


Why is it that people think cheese is a nightmare-inducing snack?

While some have claimed that cheese alters their sleeping patterns and dreams, we found no such evidence that it can cause nightmares.

In fact, in a study done by the British Cheese Board, it was reported that all participants reported having no nightmares from the various cheeses they ate before sleeping. Some strange dreams were reported, but nothing of the spooky sort.


Is That Spicy Dish Disturbing Your Sleep?

Number two on our list of alleged nightmare culprits is spicy food. Buffalo wings, anyone?

Whether it’s a spicy Vindaloo or a tabasco slathered sandwich, spicy foods have a bad rap when it comes to sleep disturbances.


But, do spicy foods really cause bad dreams?


What we found in one study, is that the spicy foods eaten before dinner caused a rise in body temperature in participants, which ultimately led to a restless night.

It’s believed that the spice principle capsaicin affects sleep because the change in body temperature interrupts the initial sleep cycle and slows down stage two sleep.


However, bad dreams were not reported by any of the participants.


Could Carbs Cause Chaos in Your Sleep?

Carbohydrates tend to come up as a no-no in many fad diets, but could it be possible that your garlic bread or pesto penne could be causing those terrifying dreams?

Long associated with nightmares, carbs are pretty much up there with cheese and spicy food as the dish to blame.


However, we found no such evidence. In fact, one study in Japan suggests that rice is linked to good sleep, especially good sleep duration.

Pasta, on the other hand, not so much. The participants who ate pasta regularly reported more sleep disturbances overall. But, nightmares were not reported.


So, if it’s a good night’s rest you crave then grab a rice bowl (hold the hot sauce) and enjoy your sleep.


And if you can’t resist that pasta carbonara — we don’t blame you — but prepare for a restless night.

The True Cause of Your Nightmares

For many years researchers have been studying the link between diet and dreams, and while there is an indication that dreams can be influenced by what we eat there’s definitely more to it than that.


So, if it’s not the carbs and cheese... what causes bad dreams and what can you do about it?


Nightmares are most commonly caused by...

  • Stress

  • Lack of sleep

  • Certain medications

  • And sleep Disorders

… and affect nearly 50% of adults.

If you find yourself plagued by bad dreams, then you should see your doctor or a sleep specialist to determine if you have a sleep disorder.


Having Bad Dreams?: Keep a Journal

If your bad dreams only occur once in a while then a dream journal may provide some valuable insight into why you dream what you do.


Dr. Kelly Bulkeley, Ph.D., said that “One of the greatest values of a dream journal is the way it grows in power and depth over time. The ever-expanding pool of dreaming experience creates an evolving network of meaningful connections.


Interested in starting a dream journal?

Start by making some entries from past dreams. Think back to the earliest dream you remember, even if it’s just fragmented, and write it down. This is a good way to start a habit of recording your dreams.


Keep a pen and paper next to your bed, and when you wake up with a dream in your head, write down every detail you can remember, even the feelings you had in the dream.


Carl Jung, one of the pioneers of dream psychology thought that a series of dreams provides extraordinary means of exploring a person’s life.


Why not start exploring yours tonight?


How Can You Take Control of Your Dreams?

Dream Chocolate by Portland Chocolate Laboratory is made with the finest dark chocolate, sourced from the farm, and made in-house by skilled chocolatiers.


If you want to understand more about your dreams, this box of chocolates is a dream experiment made to take your understanding of dreams to a whole new level.


A 3 night, self-guided dream workshop that contains three chocolates, each infused with a different mix of dream herbs, a dream journal, and a few dream tools.


Unlock the mystery of your dreams.


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