The impact of energy drinks on health is well documented, with several studies highlighting their harmful effects on the risk of heart disease, mental health issues and behavioural disorders. Public health authorities are particularly concerned about their role in the diets of young people.
Now, a study by Norway-based researchers reveals that energy drinks are associated with poor sleep quality, and even insomnia, among students. The more they consume, the fewer hours of sleep they get – and even the occasional can is linked to heightened risk of disturbed sleep.
The research involved over 53,000 adults aged 18-35 who were surveyed on health and wellbeing. The authors asked them questions about the frequency with which they consumed energy drinks, the times at which they got up and went to bed, the sleep difficulties they encountered, and the number of hours of sleep they got each night.
The experts point out that this was an observational study, based not on objective measurements but on self-reporting, which “does not allow firm conclusions to be drawn”, but they do suggest that energy-drink consumption could lead to an increased risk of sleep disorders in students.
Published in the BMJ Open journal, their research indicates that daily consumption of energy drinks – not to be confused with sports drinks – leads to a 30-minute reduction in sleep compared with occasional or no consumption.
They also report nighttime wakings and difficulty in falling asleep with this frequency of consumption. The same is true of insomnia, which is more frequent among those who report drinking energy drinks every day.
Importantly, an increased risk of disturbed sleep was also observed among participants who drank energy drinks only one to three times a month.
“The results from our study show that there is a robust association between the frequency of energy-drink consumption and different sleep parameters.
“Identifying modifiable risk factors for sleep problems among college and university students is vital, and our results suggest that the frequency of consumption could be a possible target for interventions,” the authors concluded.