Canadian study finds sugary beverages and energy drinks disrupt sleep and shorten duration of sleep in adolescents
03/26/2018 // Jessica Dolores // Views

Parents of teens know this familiar scene: The adolescent comes home from school, his eyes almost drooping, his body limp. It's been a long day. But he still has a lot of things to do. There's a long exam tomorrow, and a paper to boot. So he fishes out the can of energy drink from his backpack.

The can with the attractive design seems harmless. But do you know it contains harmful ingredients that could keep your teen from falling fast asleep, and waking up recharged and refreshed the next day? Do you know that it could keep him from acing that test, and getting that paper right?

Researchers from Canada studied data from over 9,000 adolescents in Ontario and found a strong link between energy drinks and sugary beverages and shorter sleep duration.

The research, published in the journal Nutrition culled data from the 2015 cycle of the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey, a school-based survey of student in grades seven to 12. The survey, which started in 1977, is done every two years.

Researchers from the University of Ottawa, the Institute for Mental Health Policy Research, the University of Toronto, and the Eastern Ontario Research Institute asked students about their energy drink consumption. Adolescents were asked about the frequency at which they drank a can of energy drink, a bottle or glass of sweetened soda, sports drink (Gatorade) or pre-sweetened tea or coffee for the past seven days.

Students were asked separately about the way they consumed energy drinks. The researchers then asked how many hours of sleep they got on a regular school night. The majority of the students reported taking sugary beverages in the past seven days. These were the same students who said they were getting fewer hours of sleep each night.


Sleep deprivation is not the only downside to energy drinks. These sugar-packed beverages promise a burst of energy to lift flagging spirits due to fatigue, sleep deprivation and others.

And they do, for the short-term. But in the long run, the dangers outweigh the temporary benefits.

One review connected the consumption of energy drinks to heart problems which required emergency room attention. In the U.S. alone, more than 20,000 emergency room cases have been related to energy drinks. Many studies show that energy drinks may raise blood pressure and heart rate. It could lower essential markers of healthy blood vessel functions and lead to heart problems. Experts trace these negative effects to higher levels of caffeine in energy drinks. Others court trouble by taking energy drinks with alcohol.

Helping your teen

You can help your teen sleep better by warning him about the dangers of having too many energy drinks. You can also help him get the required eight to 10 hours of sleep each night by:

  •  Maintaining a regular bedtime schedule. This way, his body knows when it's time to wind down and prepare for sleep. The body thrives on predictability. When it can predict what the next steps are, it establishes a rhythm that helps people focus more and perform better in school and in work.
  •  Using gentle persuasion. You can't always make your teen go to bed just because you want to. His friends are up late at night, so why shouldn't he join the bandwagon? When this happens, it's best not to put your foot down. Just explain the benefits of a good night's sleep: a spike in grades, increased concentration, a fitter body, even improved physical appearance. See if this makes your teen want to call it a night earlier than usual.
  • Trying reverse psychology. If he continues to balk, let him be. Just tell him staying healthy is a choice. And the choice is his to make.

Teens need all the help they can get at this point in their life, when they're developing habits they could carry over to adulthood. Their peers may play a big role in their decisions, but parents also exert an influence on them.

He may not seem to listen now. But he is, deep down inside. That's a challenge and a responsibility today's parents can't avoid.

Sources include:

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