If you have not already done so, please read Blog Posts 1 through 5 that describe how sleep is important and beneficial. I will post specific information for parents and children based on my book, “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.” Please do not be put off by my book’s length. This is a reference book. Read only the topic of interest to you.
Caffeine and sleep banking (Blog Post 63) may be viewed as countermeasures to the effects of sleep loss. Caffeine is a stimulant that reduces the consequences of sleep deprivation by increasing arousal, vigilance, and attention, but is ineffective in mitigating the degradation of cognitive functions caused by severe sleep loss. As a stimulant, caffeine can cause a rapid heartbeat, increased blood pressure, nervousness, irritability, and impaired sleep (more difficulty falling asleep and reduced sleep duration). There appear to be genetic differences among individuals regarding the sleep disruption caused by caffeine. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under 12 years should not drink caffeinated beverages and for older children, no more than 100 milligrams of caffeine (about the amount in one cup of home-brewed coffee) a day.
The US Department of Army recommends the use of caffeine to reduce the degradation associated with sleep loss. Military studies have shown that caffeine improves marksman reaction time but not accuracy and caffeine has inconsistent effects on memory, judgement, and decision-making. Over 50% of the combat arms soldier’s intake of caffeine was from energy drinks.
About one-third of adolescents consume energy drinks, many of which contain more than 100 milligrams of caffeine. Social media promotion of energy drinks is “attuned with young people desires or aspirations, social connectivity, desired social identity, enhancement of performance and enhancement of mood.” The growing popularity of energy drinks (global energy drink sales, for all ages, in 2014 was about fifty billion dollars, a 5% increase over 2013; in the US, in 2021, nineteen billion dollars!) has led to some concerns.
In an editorial, “Ban on sale of energy drinks to children. It’s time to legislate”, the president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Dr. Russel Viner wrote in the prestigious British Medical Journal, “ ‘Not recommended for children.’ This is the warning on every can of energy drink sold in the UK that contains 150 mg or more of caffeine per litre [about 34 ounces]. But when should a product warning turn into legislation? Little evidence exists, however, that such drinks provide needed “energy.” Evidence is emerging that the consumption of caffeinated energy drinks among children and young people is associated with anxiety, depression, sensation seeking, poorer executive function, and increased hyperactivity and inattention. These manifest as increased psychological distress, poor behaviour, risky behaviours (such as substance use) and poorer academic attainment in maths and English. In a 2014 survey of over 5000 children in England 14% of 11-15 year olds reported consuming such drinks at least two to four times a week and 5% of all young people reported drinking energy drinks daily. Humans get energy from a good diet, refreshing sleep, exercise, and most importantly, from our interactions with other people. Many UK supermarkets have now banned the sale of caffeinated energy drinks to under age 16 and several countries have bans in place. At the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health we support restriction of the sales of energy drinks to under age 16.”