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Does Chocolate Really Contain Caffeine, or Are People Just Confusing It with Theobromine?

I'm just sayin'


There’s an assertion circulating on the Web that caffeine content in chocolate is an urban legend based on misunderstanding of a related compound, theobromine. From what information I’ve been able to turn up, it appears this assertion is false: that is, the urban legend is that chocolate doesn’t contain caffeine.

The first significant information I found on this is on the Hershey Company’s site, which has a page entitled “Caffeine and Theobromine“. On this page they discuss the two separately and state that “For example, a 1.55 ounce (43g) HERSHEY’S milk chocolate bar contains about 9 mg of caffeine.” They later say “a 1.55 ounce (43g) HERSHEY’S milk chocolate bar contains about 64mg of theobromine.” It does not seem possible that they could be confusing the two in this situation.

This next page also gives specific numbers for both caffeine and theobromine content of chocolate, though I don’t know how reliable the source is:

Getting into slightly more authoritative stuff, here’s a Russian article through Medline called “Biologically active substances in grated cocoa and cocoa butter” that discusses both caffeine and theobromine content in chocolate, separately: .

Here’s another article, this one from The Journal of Chromatographic Science, also speaks of both caffeine and theobromine content in chocolate:

Why does all this matter? Depending on who you are, it may not. After all, chocolate doesn’t contain a lot of caffeine. That Hershey’s bar mentioned above only has about 1/10 the amount of caffeine found in a cup of coffee, though dark chocolate has more. However, if you’re like me and have bad physiological reactions to caffeine (itching, headaches, etc.) under some circumstances, it’s pretty important to understand that chocolate–all chocolate–is going to have that effect.

On a related note, please remember too that decaffeinated coffee and tea aren’t devoid of caffeine, either–they both just have a lot less than their caffeinated counterparts.

All of the above is just based on online research, of course: I’m not a nutritionist, researcher, or medical professional.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

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Two Years Without Coffee: How to Resist Temptation

Self-motivation examples

A little over a year ago I posted “Going a Year Without Coffee,” in which I talk about how my physiology seems to encounter a lot more trouble with caffeine than most people even though I really enjoy coffee. So while I had largely steered away from coffee for some time, it wasn’t until two years ago that I stopped drinking it at all (and stopped having chocolate, tea, and other sources of caffeine along with it).

And while I’m sure I’ll have coffee again from time to time in the future, last week marked two years without, and I thought it might be worth sharing the tactics I use to steer clear, because they’re the same kind of tactics a person can use to avoid other kinds of temptation.

Changing What We Desire
The ideal thing would be to simply not want whatever it is we’re trying to avoid. Surprisingly, this turns out to be a practical approach. Many of us are used to thinking of our desires as being out of our control, that if we’re being drawn to some french fries or to someone who’s a bad influence or to an irresponsible drink, we have the choice of fighting or giving in (or often, both). Yet there’s a different, much more powerful choice available to us: using thinking to redirect our desires.

The Wrong Kind of Attention
When I start thinking about having a cup of coffee, I’m generally thinking about one of two things: how enjoyable the coffee itself is or how I would like to feel more energy. In both cases, my conscious mental processes are directed toward things that will make the idea of having coffee more appealing. On reflection, it seems obvious that if I’m thinking about how much I like the taste of coffee or how energetic I might feel if I had some that I’d be much more likely to actually have some.

It’s easy to imagine that everything we know about a choice feeds into how we make that choice, but in reality, the things we consciously focus on play a much bigger role than everything else, which is one reason we might know exactly the same things from one day to the next but choose to work hard or eat smart the first day yet procrastinate or eat junk the second.

Thinking That Makes Good Choices More Appealing
So my usual habit when I start thinking about a cup of coffee is to jot down a few thoughts about what will happen if I do have some. One of the first things I usually think of is the grinding, day-long headache I’ll get sooner or later from the caffeine. While this isn’t my body’s only negative reaction to the stuff, and while it’s always delayed at least a couple of days, it’s a miserable time.

Not surprisingly, the more I think “coffee=terrible, day-long headache,” the less appealing that cup of coffee gets. This effect builds as I remember that while coffee gives me energy, it also makes it easier to feel jumpy or anxious. Having energy isn’t much good if I’m not in a good enough mood to use it well. As I carefully think over what the real results of my actions will be, the temptation looks progressively more shabby and unappealing.

Having a Little Time Makes All the Difference
The problem with this approach is that it takes time and attention. However, it doesn’t take a lot of time and attention, and if we have enough time and attention to be tempted by something, we probably have enough time and attention to reflect on what will happen if we let ourselves be sucked in by that temptation. It only takes a few minutes, and while it works best if you can write or talk about the things that will make you less attracted to that choice, even just careful thought can bring you there. The worst thing is to be tied up so thoroughly with something else that it’s difficult or unworkable to focus on good choices for a few minutes instead, although planning can help get us through these times (see “How Preparation Enables Stronger Willpower“).

Ultimately, not making a bad choice is easiest if we help ourselves dislike that choice. Focusing on the reasons the choice is bad in the first place help change our perspective so that we stop wanting things we don’t really want for more than momentary pleasure (see “The difference between pleasure and happiness“). To put it another way, the best way to resist temptation is to let ourselves be tempted instead by the things that will truly make us happy.

Photo by Beatriz AG

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18 Ways to Get a Good Night’s Sleep


Author and fellow Codex member Elaine Isaak posed this question:

So as I was tossing and turning last  night, it occured to me that the one area where I’m not sure I *can* effectively apply my willpower is in getting a good night’s sleep.  I can’t WILL myself to sleep the way I might will myself to get up on time to start writing or to go to the gym.  I wondered if you have come across any research that tackles this, or have any tools to suggest?

I have to agree with Elaine on not being able to will ourselves to sleep by sheer determination, but fortunately I do know of a number of ways to get to sleep and to sleep better, based on research. Understanding that serious problems with insomnia are worth seeing a doctor about and that these recommendations are not professional medical or psychological advice … here they are:

Long-Term Habits

1. Plan your schedule so that you can get to sleep at a decent hour and still be able to wake up if you want to. If there are things you need to do before going to bed, do them earlier in the evening to make sure they don’t push your bedtime back.

2. Figure out how much sleep you actually need by keeping track of how much sleep you’re getting each day and whether that turned out to be enough. This may change over time, or under different circumstances (such as in stressful periods or with more or less exercise).

3. Get on a steady schedule with your sleeping hours. Staying up late on weekends or going to bed at different times every night, for instance, can sometims interfere with your body’s attempts to establish a natural sleep schedule.

4. You may need to make your bed an environment you associate mainly with sleeping (and, if appropriate, sex). Take activities like reading, using a laptop computer, or watching TV out of bed if your bed doesn’t feel like a place that naturally relaxes you.

5. On mornings when you don’t have to get up right away, if any, don’t sleep in for long periods, as this may tend to muck with your ability to sleep that night. More sleep isn’t always better.

6. Take steps to make sure you have the physical comfort you need, to the best of your ability: a firm, comfortable mattress; good ventilation; a comfortable temperature; etc. For me, one of the most relaxing features of my bedroom in summer is a fan pointed at the bed. You may also find it more comfortable to use a non-illuminated bedroom clock, although this is admittedly inconvenient if you are up in the middle of the night and want to know what time it is.

Daily Habits

7. Watch out for caffeine and consider cutting it out for a little while if you’re having sleep problems. Remember that in addition to regular coffee, most sodas, black/green/white tea, and chocolate contain caffeine, and that even decaf coffee and decaf tea contain some caffeine–just a reduced amount. Other stimulants to be careful of include ginseng and nicotine.

8. Exercise during the day! Be active! Regular exercise contributes to very good sleep.

9. Watch out for alcohol: while it can help you fall asleep more quickly, it also can cause sleep problems. According to, “it prevents deeper stages of sleep and often causes you to awaken in the middle of the night.”

10. Don’t eat or drink a lot late in the evening. Either can cause physical discomfort that keeps you up at night or that can interrupt an otherwise sound sleep.

Before bed

11. Stretch, either doing yoga or basic stretching techniques. Stretching will release tension and improve blood flow.

12. Before bed, steer clear of things that might stir you up, like watching television, reading a suspenseful novel, or taking on stressful tasks. Relaxing activities will help settle you down so that you can sleep more easily. These can even include things like picking up and cleaning around the house to set things in order, or gathering things you’ll need the next day. The relative mindlessness of these tasks, the mild physical activity, and the way this prevents you from having to worry about getting things done in the morning are all conducive to good sleep.

13. Consider meditation, for instance body scan meditation, in which you focus your attention on each part of your body in turn and allow it to relax. Meditation can help still mental chatter and create a serene state of mind.

14. Ask a romantic partner, family member, or friend to give you a massage in the evening. This is an excellent means to rope someone into giving you a free massage, so don’t miss out.

In the moment

15. If you find yourself kept up by specific worries or general anxiety, try idea repair, journaling, or talking things out with someone who cares about how you’re doing.

16. Soft earplugs are great if you’re having trouble with noise. There’s a picture of the kind I like in this post.

17. If you’re obsessing about making yourself sleep, you may want to get out of bed, go sit on the couch, and read a book or listen to music or watch a movie that you’ve already seen, turned down low. These kinds of activities can engage your attention in a more relaxed way that may allow you to fall asleep more easily. Just make sure to have a comfortable couch.

18. In bed, listen to low music or a relaxation CD. Like the tactics mentioned in the previous item, this can help relax you when your mind is overstimulated.

Photo by babblingdweeb

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