Caffeine consumption in children is linked to sleep problems?
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
A recent study shows that children are consuming 30% above the recommended amount of caffeine daily, leading to an earlier onset of medical problems including sleep issues.
WHAT WE KNOW
According the Journal of Pediatrics, on any given day, 75% of American kids will drink at least one caffeinated beverage. Each canned soda often comes with a price tag of up to 60 mg of caffeine. While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not developed pediatric guidelines for caffeine consumption, Canadian guidelines recommend no more than 45 mg/day for 4 to 6 year olds, 62 mg/day for 7 to 9 year olds, and 85 mg/day for 10 to 12 year olds.
Common Forms of Caffeine
Some children and adolescents then top off that daily cola intake with coffee drinks– iced cappuccinos and blended coffees are a hit on the café scene, and let’s not forget the latest energy drink craze!
To date, few studies have explored caffeine’s physical effects on children and even less attention has been paid to caffeine’s psychological consequences, but researchers are now beginning to delve into the field.
What we do know is that caffeine packs an even more powerful punch for children than adults, giving kids an amplified version of the alertness, anxiety, nervousness and insomnia. In addition, most of these sugary drinks are packed with calories, which is problematic given the national childhood obesity epidemic. It’s troubling that the favorite beverages among American youth are those high in caffeine and sugar, instead of calcium and vitamin C.
HOW DO WE KNOW THIS?
A study published in the Journal of Pediatrics looked at survey data on diet and sleep duration for 201 children, ages 5 to 12 years. Overall, 75% of children consumed some amount of caffeine. Average intake among 8 to 12 year olds was 102 mg/day (equivalent to one cup of coffee), which is 28% higher than the maximum recommended. Even 5 to 7 year olds consumed, on average, 52 mg of caffeine a day (16% above the limit recommended for that age group). Caffeine intake was linked directly to less sleep, resulting in 9% less shut-eye for the older caffeine-guzzling kids.¹
According the American Academy of Pediatrics, energy drinks contain substances that act as stimulants, such as caffeine, guarana and taurine. Caffeine, the most popular stimulant, has been linked to a number of harmful health effects in children, including effects on the developing neurologic and cardiovascular systems. Energy drinks are never appropriate for children or adolescents.²
Whether you are 2 or 42, when it comes to caffeine and sweetened beverages, the less the better! Just like anything in life, moderation is the most important thing. If your day starts with a fresh cup of coffee, enjoy, just refrain from consuming sodas, energy drinks, chocolate, or tea the rest of the day.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations for alternative beverages …
- Water. Water should be the primary source of hydration for children and adolescents.
- 100% Juice. Consume only 4-6 ounces of 100% juice per day for children 1-6 years old and 8-12 ounces per day for children 7-18 years old. For adults, 4-8 ounces per day as juice is a reasonable amount.
- Low-Fat or Fat-Free Milk. From ages 1–8, children need 2 cups of milk or its equivalent each day. Children ages 9–18 need 3 cups.
A great way to increase your energy … sleep! Stop trying to be wonder woman and get your Zzzzzz’s! With all of the hats you wear every day, this may be easier said than done. But when it comes to sleep, it’s all right to be a little selfish. Determine what time you want to make it to bed every night, and stick to it! You’ll notice a huge difference in your energy and motivation, which can lead to healthier food choices (fruits and veggies) and exercise! These three (sleep, healthy eating, exercise) are a recipe for more energy too!
¹ Warzak, W., S. Evans, M. Floress, et al. “Caffeine Consumption in Young Children.” Journal of Pediatrics
² American Academy of Pediatrics. “Kids Should Not Consume Energy Drinks, and Raraely Need Sports Drinks, Says AAP” Press Release May 30, 2011. Retrieved from