Theobromine is a natural compound found for example in cocoa. It is used by many people as a natural alertness-boosting, focus-enhancing, and mood-lifting nootropic. But is it effective? Read on to find out what the science says.

This nootropic has no healthy human placebo-controlled studies that meet our inclusion criteria. Negative side effects can occur if used carelessly, so make sure you’re aware of the risks of Theobromine.


Read about the effects of Theobromine in relation to the amount of evidence we've found

Can theobromine improve sleep?

Theobromine is generally thought of as promoting wakefulness and alertness. Considering that it is likely quite stimulating, wouldn't it be weird if it improved sleep?

In one study on 5587 participants, it was found that theobromine consumption was associated with shorter sleep duration. [1] It appears that theobromine may prevent very long (9h+) sleep, but not reduce sleep from 8h to less. These findings have been backed up by results from an animal study. [2] All other things being equal, sleeping for long is generally not desirable (we live to be awake!). So judging by these pieces of evidence, theobromine seems to improve sleep.

But does it? Maybe not.

First, one should keep in mind that this was a study examining the correlation between the consumption of different foods and sleep duration. This means that it is not possible to make any valid conclusion about the causality of the effects that were found, or if perhaps something else such as other ingredients in cocoa which these people likely consume more of caused the shorter duration of sleep.

Second, there's no science on the effects of theobromine on sleep quality. It is plausible that theobromine would, similarly to caffeine, impair sleep quality if used close to bed-time.

A reduction in sleep duration if it is due to worsened sleep quality is bad.

It is probably best not to use theobromine or cocoa (which contains a lot of theobromine) in the afternoon or evening.

Theobromine likely has an effect on sleep. However, it is not known whether it impairs sleep quality or if it increases sleep efficiency.

Can theobromine improve mood?

High doses (500mg and more) of theobromine can lead to worsened mood, and lower doses (e.g. 250mg) may lead to increased want for theobromine.

In one study in healthy humans, 700mg theobromine decreased calmness after 3h compared with a placebo. [6] Other than this effect, theobromine had no effect on mood.

Theobromine had little subjective effects among 80 healthy participants who took 250mg (the only effect was that participants wanted more theobromine), and negative effects on mood at higher doses (500mg and 750mg). [7] Specifically, it increased ratings of "dysphoria" and "dislike" at these amounts.

Can theobromine help you focus?

There's a need for a lot more research on the effects of theobromine on focus, but the evidence that does exist suggests that high doses can impair focus.

Amongst 80 healthy humans, 1000mg theobromine decreased alertness and reduced speed of performance on a task measuring attention performance. [8]


The legality and side effects of Theobromine


Frequently asked questions about Theobromine


Studies conducted on the effects of Theobromine in healthy humans

Last updated Saturday, June 10, 2023