Is the Caffeine in Chocolate Strong Enough to Keep You Awake at Night?

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Whether you prefer a generous slice of double fudge cake or always keep a candy bar on hand, chocolate is undeniably one of life’s greatest pleasures—particularly to cap off a great dinner. However, considering that chocolate has caffeine in it, is your late-night treat secretly sabotaging your sleep?

That’s right: It’s not just coffee, black and green tea, and energy drinks that could keep you abuzz long after your head hits the pillow. Foods with caffeine exist as well, with chocolate among them. But is chocolate a genuinely significant source of the stimulant to where it could keep you from falling asleep or having other symptoms like jitters? Keep reading to see what the experts have to say.

Experts In This Article

Does chocolate contain caffeine or not?

Yes, most chocolate has caffeine in it. But the amount varies based on the cacao and cocoa percentage, how the chocolate was processed, and other factors, says Brooklyn–based dietitian Maddie Pasquariello, RDN.

“In milk chocolate, there are about 20 milligrams of caffeine per 100 grams,” Pasquariello says. “In dark chocolate, the level can vary a bit more, [ranging] anywhere from 50 milligrams to 150 milligrams per 100 grams.”

To put this into perspective, Pasquariello offers the example of a typical serving size of two squares (around 25 grams) of a chocolate bar. “If you're eating milk chocolate, the caffeine content in a serving is roughly five milligrams—and for dark chocolate, anywhere from 12 milligrams to 38 milligrams,” she explains. Meanwhile, a slice of chocolate cake with chocolate frosting will pack approximately four to eight milligrams of the stuff, per the USDA.

Considering that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends people consume no more than 400 milligrams of caffeine per day, a square or two of chocolate is really a drop in the bucket.

Interestingly, chocolate also packs theobromine, a mild stimulant closely related to caffeine. According to a 2015 review1 in the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology, the dynamic duo has the potential to get your buzz on and is also responsible for the pleasure you get from consuming it.

Which chocolate has the most caffeine?

Generally speaking, the darker your chocolate treat is, the more caffeinated it will be. “Dark chocolate will typically have at least three times the amount of caffeine as milk chocolate,” notes Pasquariello.

White chocolate, on the other hand, doesn’t have caffeine since it uses cocoa butter rather than cocoa solids, the latter of which offer caffeine as well as other beneficial compounds including magnesium, iron, and antioxidants.

Milk chocolate falls in the middle—less than dark chocolate, but more than white chocolate—because it contains some cocoa solids.

Caffeine in chocolate vs. coffee and tea

The amount of caffeine in chocolate varies based on a range of factors, and the same goes for the most common sippable sources of the stimulant. But in general, there’s typically less caffeine in chocolate than in most other caffeine sources like coffee and tea.

Pasquariello shares ballpark estimates for how much caffeine you can expect in popular caffeinated beverages:

“The level [of caffeine] in snack bars and other food items will depend on the brand, type, and how much you consume,” Pasquariello reiterates. “Most caffeinated snack bars contain around 60 to 80 milligrams caffeine per serving,” so you’re likely to feel perked up if you eat it all in one go.

You can hone in on the precise content of your preferred caffeinated drink or food—branded chocolates, snacks, and other sweets included—with this detailed caffeine chart by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Can you eat chocolate if you can’t have caffeine?

Yes, you likely can still enjoy small amounts of chocolate if you don’t otherwise typically consume caffeine—unless you’re really sensitive to it. That’s because there’s a relatively small amount of caffeine in chocolate per serving (especially milk and white chocolates) compared to more common sources of like tea and chocolate.

“If you eat more than a few servings of dark chocolate, it's possible you could feel a little wired, especially if you're caffeine-sensitive,” says Pasquariello. “But if you're having a square or two of milk chocolate or something with low cacao content, it's highly unlikely you'll experience noticeable effects of caffeine.”

Of course, every body is different, so it’s most important to be mindful of how your chocolate intake affects you. For instance, if you regularly enjoy chocolate before bed yet have trouble catching ZZZ’s (and there’s nothing else to explain the issue), it could be helpful to adjust your serving size or timing. On the other hand, if you enjoy a chocolatey treat nightly and can still rest well, you’re in a *sweet* spot to enjoy your treats as you see fit.

Caffeine considerations aside, Pasquariello believes that chocolate is a joy that can accommodate any dietary regimen. “As someone who has a little treat or dessert after nearly every meal, I wholeheartedly believe that chocolate of any kind can fit into a healthy diet,” she says. (Can I get an amen?)

What kind of chocolate you seek out depends on your taste preferences, but she says she typically likes darker chocolate for more flavor without as much added sugar. “But ultimately, it's also about not depriving ourselves of foods we love.” Particularly when those foods can also help you live longer (as is the case with chocolate).

Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.
  1. Martínez-Pinilla, Eva et al. “The relevance of theobromine for the beneficial effects of cocoa consumption.” Frontiers in pharmacology vol. 6 30. 20 Feb. 2015, doi:10.3389/fphar.2015.00030

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