Teens May Be Unaware Energy Drinks Contain Caffeine That Can Impair Sleep

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Mike C Parent, Ph.D
Assistant Professor, Counseling Psychology
Texas Tech University

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Parent: There is some research out there on energy drinks, and we know a few things about them. For instance, although the drinks are marketed as though they are for extreme sports athletes, most people who drink them are not athletes. It seems as though drinking them makes some men feel as though they are a part of that extreme sports culture, without even needing to participate in the sports, though. The other part was that, clinically, you would be amazed at how many young men present at student counseling centers and university medical centers with “sleep problems.” Then, when you ask them about what they eat and drink during a day, it turns out that some of them are guzzling half a dozen of these drinks a day, or drinking them at night, totally unaware of the extremely high caffeine content. It’s true that energy drinks can help people focus a but better or work out a bit harder–but that’s because the active ingredient is caffeine. In this research, we aimed to marry together those two lines of work–how does wanting to be more masculine impact energy drink use, and what consequences might energy drink use have for something as basic as sleep hygiene?

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Parent: -We always ask what substances people use in a first meeting, because this is really important to know from patients and it’s important that patients are honest–unless you’re risking the health of a child or something like that, you won’t get in trouble for telling your health care provider about any substances you use. But many patients might have no idea that things like energy drinks contain caffeine, and that caffeine is a substance that can impact things like sleep. So, providers might be super clear in what they are asking people–it might not be enough to just ask, “what substances do you use” if the patient doesn’t think of caffeine as a substance, or “how much caffeine do you have each day” if the patient thinks you are only asking about coffee.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Parent: It will be important to investigate this longitudinally and even experimentally to get a really good idea about causality. This probably works reciprocally– people use energy drinks, then don’t sleep well, then drink more energy drinks the next day to be more alert because they slept so badly, then they sleep badly again.

Ronald F. Levant, Mike C. Parent, Eric R. McCurdy, Tyler C. Bradstreet.Moderated mediation of the relationships between masculinity ideology, outcome expectations, and energy drink use.
Health Psychology, 2015; 34 (11): 1100 DOI: 1037/hea0000214

Mike C Parent, Ph.D. (2015). Teens May Be Unaware Energy Drinks Contain Caffeine That Can Impair Sleep