Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Sue Scheff: Teenagers Use of Caffeine

Another great timely article from Tangerine Times!!!!

We already know that teenagers don’t get as much sleep as they should. The fact that the school systems in the U.S. haven’t “waken” to the fact that teens have a different sleep rhythm isn’t overlooked by me but I’ll not get into that subject today. Some studies say that only one in five teens is getting the recommended eight hours of sleep each night. I’m sure the rest are texting the night away. What I didn’t realize is the common and casual use of highly-caffeinated drinks to help them stay awake. We didn’t start “using” coffee to stay awake and study until college. Of course, that WAS to study not to text.

One-third of teens polled recently (as reported by U.S. News and World Report) fell asleep in school at least twice each day. Several students even confessed to falling asleep at the wheel while driving.

“We found that as these adolescents multitask into the night, they also caffeinate, and it affects their sleep dramatically,” said the study’s author, Christina Calamaro, an assistant professor of nursing at Drexel University in Philadelphia.
We’ve all read the poll published recently that stated the U.S. as a whole has lost about one to two hours of nightly sleep during the past four decades, putting us behind France but ahead of the Koreans who seem to work around the clock. At the same time, there’s been a twofold increase in the number of teens getting less than seven hours of sleep per night. Most experts agree that eight to nine hours a night isn’t enough sleep for most teens. (see the Sleep Foundation link in the sidebar)

Since almost all teens have at least one electronic device in their room — TV, cell phone, computer, telephone or music device, it’s not hard to see the stimulation driving the kids to stay up. Heck, the average sixth-grader has two devices in the bedroom, according to the study. By 12th grade, there are often four electronic devices in the bedroom.

Devices in the Bedroom
“These technological devices activate the mind. It’s like having a stressful work conversation just before getting into bed,” explained Dr. Jonathan Pletcher, an adolescent specialist at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

“I think teens definitely underestimate the effect on sleep these devices have. I think most adults underestimate it, too,” he said. ( I don’t and frankly I think most reasonable parents don’t. It’s just really hard to wrangle these devices from the kids!!)

The current study, published in the June issue of Pediatrics, recruited 100 teens from the Philadelphia area to assess their technology and caffeine use, as well as their sleeping habits.

The teens were between 12 and 18, with an average age of 15. Fifty-eight percent were female. Sixty-two percent were white, and 27 percent were black. The average household income was $51,800.

Two-thirds of the teens had a television in their bedroom, and nearly one-third had a computer. Ninety percent of the teens had their own cell phone, and 79 percent had a personal music device.

On average, teens said they used four devices after 9 p.m. More than 80 percent of the teens reported watching TV after 9 p.m., and one-third said they sent text messages after 9 p.m. Fifty-five percent were online after 9 p.m.

Fifteen percent of the youngsters said they only slept three to five hours per night, while 62 percent reported getting six to eight hours nightly. Just 20 percent slept 8 or more hours each night.

Caffeine: Red Bull and Monster’ized’
Eleven percent of the studied teens drank the equivalent of more than four espressos daily. And, because many schools limit the sale of energy drinks, teens often got the bulk of their caffeine after 3 p.m., which Calamaro said could definitely disrupt sleep. Drinks such as Red Bull and Monster are loaded with caffeine and the combination of the caffeine and the late hour of consumption puts these teens in the exhaustion category.

And, we were worried about too much stress from school weren’t we?