The impact of energy drinks on health

The more energy drink consumption, the fewer hours of sleep at night. That's the conclusion of a Norwegian study of more than 50.000 people between 18 and 35 years old, which found that even occasional use can increase the risk of health disorders.

Energy drinks contain an average caffeine content of 150 mg per liter and sugar, vitamins, minerals and amino acids in varying amounts.

Advertisements position them as a means to improve physical and mental health, which may be why they are so popular among young students. In fact, a study published last November in the journal Addiction found that almost 60% of young adults and adolescents worldwide have consumed energy drinks at some point; a fact that worries experts, especially when combined with alcohol.

Over the years there have been several studies that have attempted to demonstrate the risks involved. A new article, written in Norway and published in the magazine BMJ Open, links the consumption of energy drinks with poor sleep quality and insomnia in university students.

The results, based on data from 53.266 people ages 18 to 35 from the latest Student Health and Wellbeing Study (SHOT22 studio), showed that the greater the frequency of consumption, the fewer hours they slept at night. “Even small amounts of drinking (one to three times a month) can be associated with quality and quantity of sleep.” explains Siri Kaldenbach, first author and researcher at Innlandet Hospital in Norway.

How energy drinks affect sleep

To understand which aspects of sleep were more or less affected, the students were asked how often they drank energy drinks and what their daily activities were like: when they went to bed and when they woke up, or how long it took them to fall asleep.

Sleep efficiency was then calculated based on total hours of sleep per night and time spent in bed.

Differences between men and women

The survey responses show clear gender differences in consumption patterns. For example, women are more likely than men to say they never or almost never drink energy drinks: 50% vs. 40%. Of those who reported drinking these drinks, 5,5% said they drank them four to six times a week, and just over 3% said they drank them every day. The equivalent values ​​of these are 8 and 5%, respectively.

However, in both sexes a clear dose-response relationship was observed between the consumption of energy drinks and less sleep time. When reporting daily consumption, both men and women slept approximately half an hour less than participants who consumed occasionally or not at all.

Similar associations were observed during awakening after falling asleep and delay in falling asleep.
Therefore, higher consumption is associated with an increase in both the time awake during the night and the time needed to fall asleep, that is, lower sleep efficiency.

Insomnia problems

energy drinks

Insomnia was also more common in women and men who used these drinks daily than in those who used it occasionally or not at all: 51% vs. 33% (them) and 37% vs. 22% (them). Overall, higher energy drink consumption was associated with a higher risk of sleep problems across all aspects examined, with the strongest association seen with sleep duration.

Compared to those who reported not drinking energy drinks or only drinking them occasionally, men who reported drinking them daily were more than twice as likely to sleep less than 6 hours per night, while women were 87% more likely to sleep less than XNUMX hours per night. of probabilities.

"Our objective is at least to inform the consumer that drinking large quantities is not beneficial for sleeping well and that students should perhaps be somewhat careful when drinking these drinks, as is also confirmed in other studies from other countries on the same topic.", adds Kaldenbach.

Study limitations

This is an observational study, so no conclusions can be drawn about the cause. However, the researchers believe that their findings show a strong relationship between the frequency of energy drink consumption and various sleep parameters.

"Identifying modifiable risk factors for sleep problems among college students is vital, and our results suggest that frequency of use could be a potential target for interventions.”, state the authors.

"We believe that this result may have implications for other countries, because the energy drinks They are very popular around the world, as other studies have shown", Kaldenbach concluded.

Reference:

Kaldenbach S, et al. “Energy drink consumption and sleep parameters in college and university students: a national cross-sectional study.” BMJ Open 2024.

Funding: Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research and Norwegian Ministry of Health and Care Services.

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