Chocolate is undoubtedly one of the nation’s favourite indulgences, but the sweet treat isn’t considered to be especially good for us – particularly before bed.
The high sugar content might dissuade most from tucking into the snack right before sleep, but research shows a late night treat might actually fuel a good night’s rest.
Late night snacking
A recent study conducted by Time 4 Sleep found that chocolate topped the list as the nation’s most popular evening snack to enjoy before bed, beating popular savoury options including crisps and cheese.
The UK’s top five bed-time guilty pleasures consumed before bed were:
- Chocolate (38%)
- Crisps (34%)
- Cheese (30%)
- Sweets (28%)
- Bread (26%)
But can eating chocolate before bed have its benefits?
The benefits of chocolate
The bed and sleep specialist teamed up with dietitian and lecturer King’s College London, Sophie Medlin, to examine which foods are best for promoting sleep, and which are best avoided in the evening.
Chocolate was found to be one of the best foods to help you nod off at night, thanks to being rich in the amino acid, tryptophan.
“Tryptophan is the biggest influence on melatonin levels, an important hormone which controls our sleep patterns,” Medlin explains.
“Melatonin is produced in the brain and the amount of it we produce, and how effectively our brain uses it, is affected by our diet.
“Chocolate is a particularly good source of tryptophan, so a hot chocolate or a little bit of chocolate before bed is actually really good for sleep, so long as you don’t over indulge.”
Along with Tryptophan, foods with high levels of B vitamins, calcium and magnesium are also effective in aiding sleep thanks to their role in the release of melatonin in the brain.
Foods rich in these nutrients include:
- Nuts and seeds
- Dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale and broccoli
- Soya beans
- Dairy products, such as cheese, milk and yogurt
- Pulses, such as beans, lentils and peas
Which foods should I avoid?
If you struggle with restless nights and find a hot cup of cocoa doesn’t do the trick, Medlin recommends following these simple food-related tips:
Avoid spicy, junk and processed food
These foods should always be avoided late in the evening, especially if it’s something heavy and difficult to digest, as it means your body must stay active while it processes the food.
Timing is key
Many people may struggle with acid re-flux if they lay down to sleep with a full stomach.
If you notice that you tend to cough or clear your throat a lot in the morning, it may well be that you are re-fluxing acid into your mouth while you are sleeping.
Try to finish eating at least an hour before bed to let your stomach empty.
Look out for hidden caffeine
Most people know how to avoid coffee at night due to the caffeine, but you might not be aware of caffeine being hidden in other substances such as green tea and fizzy drinks, so it’s a good idea to stay away from these too.
Don’t go hungry
Being hungry affects sleep as our bodies instinctively try to keep us awake to find food.
Following overly restricted diets that put us at risk of nutrient deficiencies can really affect our sleep.
If you find yourself feeling hungry before bed, a glass of milk, a small banana or a few nuts around an hour before bed could help to improve your sleep and your willpower the next day.