Many teens tend to stay up way too late, bad enough at a time when getting enough sleep is important for development. Now a researcher on adolescent sleep habits has found that teens who stay up later tend to use more caffeine and sleep even less.
Christina Calamaro, Ph.D., studies sleep and obesity in teens, and her work with families in a primary care clinic provides a fertile testing ground. “My clinical setting is my laboratory,” she said. “That’s where I ask my questions.”
When Calamaro learned from parents in her clinic that their adolescents weren’t getting enough sleep, she went directly to the source.
The teens told her they were staying up late to e-mail, text, watch TV, and play computer games, all the while drinking lots of caffeine to stay awake. Accordingly, Calamaro began to evaluate the consequences of caffeine and technology at night and their effect on adolescent sleep.
While the relationship between media use at night and its impact on adolescent sleep has been studied for decades, Calamaro’s study is the first to look at caffeine as well.
The study is found in the journal Pediatrics.
Working with data she gathered through interviews of 100 children ages 12 to 18, she discovered that the more nighttime multitasking teens did, the more caffeine they consumed, and the less they slept.
Eighty-five percent of the teens in the study drank caffeine daily, and 11 percent of those she studied drank more than 400 mg of caffeine daily—the equivalent of four espressos.
“It is not just about caffeine, it’s about calories,” she said. “When was the last time you saw a teenager walking into Starbucks and ordering a (no-calorie) espresso? It’s usually a triple shot latte frappe.”
In the future, Calamaro says she’d like to explore how lack of sleep impacts decision-making among teens and how adolescents’ lack of sleep relates to depression.
“Adolescence is the last frontier before adulthood, a time when we can look at people’s lives and make real dedicated change,” said Calamaro.
Source: University of Maryland Baltimore