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Energy drinks directly linked to insomnia and reduced sleep quality

A new study published in BMJ Open has established a link between the consumption of energy drinks and reduced sleep quality, including insomnia, among college students. 

Sleep disturbances 

The research indicates that the more frequently students consume energy drinks, the fewer hours of sleep they get each night. Surprisingly, even occasional consumption, ranging from 1-3 times a month, is associated with a higher risk of sleep disturbances.

High caffeine content 

Energy drinks, known for their high caffeine content averaging 150 mg per liter, along with varying amounts of sugar, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, are marketed as boosts for mental and physical energy. They are particularly popular among college students and young adults. 

While there is some evidence of their impact on sleep quality, the specific aspects of sleep affected and potential gender differences in these effects were unclear.

Focus of the study

The study used data from 53,266 participants aged 18 to 35 in the Students’ Health and Well-being Study (SHOT22 study), a comprehensive national survey of college and university students in Norway. The survey included detailed questions about sleep patterns and energy drink consumption frequency.

Key findings

The experts found notable sex differences in energy drink consumption patterns. For instance, 50% of women compared to 40% of men reported never or seldom consuming energy drinks. Among those who consumed these drinks, 5.5% of women and 8% of men reported drinking them 4-6 times a week.

The study revealed a clear dose-response relationship between energy drink intake and reduced sleep duration for both sexes. Those consuming energy drinks daily slept about half an hour less than those with occasional or no consumption. Increased consumption was also linked to more time awake at night and longer sleep latency, indicating poorer sleep efficiency.

Critical insights 

Insomnia rates were higher among daily consumers, with 51% of women and 37% of men reporting insomnia, compared to 33% of women and 22% of men who consumed these drinks occasionally or not at all.

Higher consumption of energy drinks was consistently associated with an increased risk of various sleep problems, with the most substantial impact observed on short sleep duration. 

Men who consumed energy drinks daily were more than twice as likely to sleep fewer than six hours per night, while the likelihood for women was 87% higher compared to those with no or occasional consumption.

Study implications 

While the study is observational and cannot establish cause and effect, the findings are significant. The researchers acknowledge the possibility of reverse causality and the limitations of self-reported data without precise information on consumption timing or quantities. 

However, they emphasize the robust association between energy drink consumption frequency and various sleep parameters, suggesting that reducing energy drink intake could be a target for interventions to improve sleep among college students.

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