Hot chocolate or tea or coffee before bed?

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It’s an age-old question. With different answers depending on who you ask. I was always told that hot chocolate is the perfect bedtime drink as it makes you sleepy while coffee will keep you awake. As for tea… who drinks that at bedtime?

Well, I suppose some do. And to be honest, what our parents and grandparents told us when we were young probably owed more to old wives’ tales than it did to science.

But what is with having a hot drink before bed? I suppose after a long day, you need something to help you wind down and relax. And while there are plenty of other things you could do to unwind before bedtime, many of us reach for a mug of something warm.

There is something comforting and calming about a nice hot drink. And let’s face it most of us need that at the end of a day.

We usually choose from tea, coffee or hot chocolate. But which is the best option for bedtime? Let’s explore.

Hot Chocolate

Cards on the table here. I’m a hot chocolate nut. I love my hot chocolate maker. So I’m a bit biased. But I’m not alone.

People all over the world associate drinking a warm cup of hot chocolate with being cosy, relaxed and comfortable. But does it actually make you sleepy? While you may be led to believe that it’ll help you drop off, this is likely more a psychological thing than anything physical happening in your body.

Things like the warmth of the drink and the creaminess of the milk give you the idea of relaxation. And that’s fine with me.

Is hot chocolate the same as cocoa?

If a cup of hot chocolate or cocoa helps you to wind down then it’s mission complete. But you should consider the risks of having too much sugar before bed and hot chocolate contains a lot of it!

Sugar will give you an initial boost when you first have it, which isn’t what you want when you’re trying to fall asleep.

But the longer effects of too much sugar are much more sedate and some people find that they feel sluggish and lethargic the next morning after having had too much sugar the night before. Furthermore, your sleep quality may be affected and you may have trouble remaining in the REM stages of sleep. Without going through a full sleep cycle, you won’t feel well rested.

Finally, we must consider that hot chocolate contains naturally occurring caffeine. While there has been some suggestion that this won’t affect your sleep quality, for many people, it does.

But, having said all that, personally you can’t beat a hot chocolate before bed. Though come to think of it, that may explain why I don’t sleep all that well. But surely it can’t be as bad as coffee?

Coffee

If you ask anyone whether drinking coffee before bed is a good idea, they’ll likely tell you that you will be awake all night. Coffee contains high levels of caffeine which is known to give you a boost of energy. It’s why a lot of people drink espresso in the morning.

According to the Sleep Foundation, caffeine actually blocks chemicals released by the brain that make us feel sleepy. Drinking coffee close to bedtime, then, seems to be counterproductive.

Add to that the fact that the caffeine really gets to work between 30 minutes and an hour after drinking and you’ll likely find yourself more tempted than usual to watch that last milk frother video on YouTube.

pouring coffee from a moka pot

However, there has been some conflicting evidence to suggest that coffee before bed might not be as bad as we first thought. Studying the effects of certain substances on sleep duration and quality, it was discovered that caffeine appeared to have no effect; throwing out everything we have ever believed about the substance.

So, if you want to follow this theory then coffee before bed is the most quick and simple option. With so many different types of automated coffee machines out there such as the pod machine and the filter coffee machine, you can make a drink at the push of a button and relax before dozing off.

Tea

Tea is one of the easiest drinks to make, whether you use tea bags or loose tea. When using tea bags, it is simply a matter of pouring over some hot water and letting the tea steep. On the other hand, those using loose tea will need to place the tea into an infuser inside their teapot, and once again, allow it to steep.

However, the problem with drinking tea before bed is that it does contain high levels of caffeine. For example, black tea can contain as much as 47 mg of caffeine. Since caffeine is a stimulant, this may make it more difficult to drop off once your head hits the pillow.

That said, if you switch to herbal tea such as peppermint or chamomile, the caffeine content is lower and studies have shown that chamomile tea may act as a natural sedative so is much better at night time.

Let’s wrap it up

Having a warm drink before bed can feel amazing, especially after the demands of the day. However, while a lot of people think that hot chocolate is the best choice, the sugar and naturally occurring caffeine might not be the best recipe for sleep.

There is a lot of debate around the effects of caffeine on sleep but drinking herbal tea is widely accepted to be the best option late at night.

Though I’m sure coffee drinkers and hot chocolate lovers will disagree. Let us know your thoughts in the comments box below.

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