People in college are known to stay up all night drinking energy drinks. But a shocking new study shows that these drinks could make it harder to sleep even if they are only drunk in small amounts. A study in Norway found that drinking just one energy drink a day was linked to getting 30 minutes less sleep each night.
The results show that these so-called “concentration boosters” may hurt schoolwork by getting in the way of important sleep. Researchers say it’s time to recognize the nights lost to these ubiquitous cans and bottles as the number of teens and young adults who drink them soars.
More than 1,000 college students in Norway between the ages of 18 and 35 took part in the poll. Participants said how many energy drinks they drank on average and how often they had sleep problems like insomnia and restlessness.
The results were shocking: students who drank at least one energy drink every day slept about 30 minutes less than their friends who didn’t drink those drinks. It wasn’t just heavy drinkers who felt the effects; people who only drank one to three drinks a month had more sleeplessness and slept less deeply.
Researchers still don’t know for sure if drinking a lot of energy drinks makes you lose your sleep. It’s possible that students drink more illegal drinks when they don’t get enough sleep. But no matter what, scientists say these drinks should be looked at as a possible intervention target.
According to the lead author, Trine Tetlie Eik-Nes from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, drinking energy drinks may be linked to more sleep problems. “No one has looked at this before.”
The companies that make energy drinks say that their drinks contain safe amounts of caffeine and other ingredients like taurine and guarana. But nutritionists say that the effects on health, especially in young people, are still not clear.
Mary Sweeney, a nutrition professor at Johns Hopkins University, said, “Energy drinks give you a big caffeine boost.” “We don’t know what long-term exposure does, especially to teens who are still growing.”
In some countries, like the UK, kids under 18 are not allowed to drink energy drinks. But rates of use keep going up, and now more than half of American teens and young adults say they regularly use.
Researchers say that as the use of energy drinks grows, people should be more aware of the problems they can cause, such as trouble sleeping. Jets of energy from junk food may help students study, but not getting enough rest could hurt their long-term grades.
“It hurts to lose 30 minutes of sleep,” said Dr. Mathias Basner, a sleep expert at the University of Pennsylvania. “Exhausted students can’t pay attention in class or fully understand what they’re learning when they’re studying.”
University students can keep coping with stressful periods by drinking drinks that break social norms and promise wings of energy. But news from Norway shows that having even one drink a day could cost you.
Even though more study needs to be done, experts say that students should limit how many energy drinks they drink and make sleep a priority. Long-term success in school involves both working hard and taking breaks.
“Even during exam time, get enough sleep,” says Dr. Basner. “You’ll get more done and get better grades.”