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Caffeine and Technology: Cutting Down Teen Sleep Time

Sleep is an important part of overall health, yet it is one of the most underrated health habits. Sleep gives the body and brain time to repair and regenerate itself. Lack of sleep can slow your ability to learn or remember, decrease concentration and physical abilities, and cause mood swings. While some sleep disturbances are caused by certain health conditions, lack of sleep is most often caused by lifestyle choices. Caffeine and an over-stimulating sleep environment are two common contributors to poor sleep.

Researchers from Drexel University wanted to determine if teens’ constant access to technology and caffeinated drinks are causing significant disturbances in their sleep. The study, published in Pediatrics , found that the use of multiple technologies and caffeinated beverages were linked to decreased sleep times in teens.

About the Study

The observational cohort study surveyed 100 middle and high school students aged 12-18. The teens were asked about their sleep behavior, caffeine intake, and nighttime media technology use. The technology activities included watching television or movies, texting, browsing the internet, talking on the phone, or using computer games and MP3 players.

The teens engaged in an average of four technology activities per evening. Television, telephone, and MP3 players were the most popular. The teens with the highest use of technologies after 9 pm were more likely to have:
  • Decreased amount of sleep
  • Higher incidence of falling asleep in school
  • Increased caffeine intake

Teens that had an average of 8-10 hours of sleep per night were 1.5-2 times less likely to report multitasking technologies. About 33% of all participating teens reported falling asleep during school, and 76% of those teens had higher rates of caffeine consumption compared to teens that did not report falling asleep during school hours.

How Does This Affect You?

The teens in this study demonstrated a common problematic sleep pattern. The use of numerous multi-media technologies late at night creates a steady stream of stimulation that decreases sleep time; the resulting daytime drowsiness encourages them to reach for caffeine stimulant drinks, which exacerbates the poor sleep cycle. This lack of sleep can impair learning since the brain requires adequate sleep to process and store information gathered during the day. Needless to say, staying awake in class is likely to promote learning.

Find out how long your teen is spending on these technologies. Although this may be easier said than done, negotiate (or impose) time limits and bed times to help them get proper amounts of sleep (a minimum of 7-½ hours per night). Discourage the consumption of caffeinated beverages , particularly in the late afternoon or evening when it is more likely to interfere with sleep. If you notice, or are advised about, daytime drowsiness, talk to your teen about sleep habits. If lifestyle changes do not improve sleep, consult his or her doctor who can identify and address any additional problems like allergies , asthma , or other medical conditions that can interfere with sleep.

 

RESOURCES:

Reference:

  • Calamaro CJ, Mason TB, Ratcliffe SJ. Adolescents living the 24/7 lifestyle: effects of caffeine and technology on sleep duration and daytime functioning. Pediatrics. 2009 Jun;123(6):e1005-10.

Last reviewed July 2009 by Richard Glickman-Simon, MD

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