Children are consuming a surprising amount of caffeine each day.
So much so that the total intake of caffeine appears to be related to sleep problems, according to a new study by the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
Specifically, 75 percent of surveyed children, ages 5 to 12, consumed caffeine on a daily basis.
The more caffeine they had, the less they slept.
Solid scientific information on the effects of caffeine on children has been limited, even though caffeine consumption has been a prime suspect in sleep difficulties and bedwetting. Many parents, however, aren’t exactly sure how much caffeine their children are drinking or how this would affect them.
During regular visits to an urban pediatric clinic, the parents of more than 200 children were surveyed by William J. Warzak, Ph.D., and a team from the University of Nebraska Medical Center. The researchers asked parents the types and amounts of snacks and drinks their child consumed every day.
“Some children as young as 5 years old were consuming the equivalent of a can of soda a day,” said Warzak. “Children between the ages of 8 and 12 years consumed an average of 109 mg a day — the equivalent of almost 3 12-ounce cans of soda.”
Interestingly, the study found that caffeine intake was not associated with bedwetting in these children.
“Contrary to popular belief, children were not more likely to wet the bed if they consumed caffeine, despite the fact that caffeine is a diuretic,” said Shelby Evans, Ph.D., coauthor and statistician.
The researchers emphasize how important it is, however, that parents supervise their child’s caffeine consumption. They also say that primary care pediatricians could have a beneficial effect on children’s health if they screened patients for caffeine consumption and educated parents on the harmful effects of caffeine overconsumption.
“Parents should be aware of the potentially negative influence of caffeine on a child’s sleep quality and daily functioning,” Warzak said.
The study “Caffeine Consumption in Young Children” appears in The Journal of Pediatrics.