|This awesome infographic comes courtesy of The Family Compass.|
I was standing in line at Walmart once and a family with a little boy around age 8 was ahead of me. The boy yanked on his dad's arm enough times while pointing at the impulse aisle that his father finally relented. I smiled, reminded of the days when we used to do this to my Mom at the grocery store, hoping to get a Charleston Chew or Butterfinger or Brown & Haley's Mountain Bar out of our efforts.
The boy opened up the refrigerate section there and pulled out a tall Monster energy drink instead.
The parents mindlessly placed the can on the conveyor belt with the rest of their groceries. The boy was so excited! I was shocked.
Not that a candy bar is a better option than a can of soda. I realize that both are bad choices. But a kid at age 8 grabbing a soda that's been highly caffeinated on purpose strikes me as a bit concerning.
He didn't strike me as a hyperactive kid, so I thought maybe it was just a sometimes treat, like my candy bar winnings at the supermarket when I was a kid.
Then the father stepped over to the refrigerator section and grabbed himself a can. And the mother followed suit.
At least it was late in the morning and not right before or after dinner. Then I might have even had the nerve to step up and ask the kid's parents if they knew just how much caffeine their kid was consuming and whether they had problems getting junior to sleep at night.
What consumers don't seem to understand is timing. Drinking caffeine in the afternoon and evening is going to alter your circadian system and disrupt your sleep onset. Not my opinion; there's a ton of evidence showing that caffeine not only overstimulates the central nervous system in such a way as to interfere with sleep, but that it actually resets your circadian rhythms in a way that can lead to big problems down the line for most of us who are already sleep deprived and can't afford to give ourselves additional insomnia or, worse, a full-fledged circadian rhythm disorder.
Or maybe consumers do understand the timing... the most popular demographic of energy drink consumers is the teenage to college age subset. These energy drink fans usually turn to the beverage for a morning pick up (rather than coffee), or to stay up late (to study or participate in other late-night activities) or to stay awake during class in the afternoon (probably because they stayed up late to study or participate in other late-night activities).
But don't take it from me. I love coffee and cola and tea as much as the next person, but the writing is on the wall for all of us. Read more about energy drinks and their negative impact on sleep health here:
- ADDICTION HELPER || How dangerous are energy drinks?
- ARMY MEDICINE || Energy drinks and their effect on sleep
- BBC NEWS || Energy drinks 'make you sleepy' -- Having a high sugar drink to boost energy can actually make people more sleepy, a study suggests
- CAFFEINE INFORMER || 12 Signs of an Energy Drink Addict
- CAFFEINE INFORMER || Top 13 Energy Drink Dangers
- CDC.gov || Energy Drink Consumption and Its Association with Sleep Problems Among U.S. Service Members on a Combat Deployment — Afghanistan, 2010
- DAILY MAIL || Are energy drinks making you MORE tired? Products are blamed for soaring levels of iron deficiency -- and exhaustion -- in young women
- HUFFINGTON POST || Dr. Michael J. Breus--Warning: Energy Drinks Stealing Sleep and Sanity
- HUFFINGTON POST || Why This Energy Drink Poster Targeting College Students Is Red Bull$#!
- JOURNAL OF EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES || The Effects of Consuming Caffeine & Energy Drinks on a Long Shift
- LIVESTRONG.com || Monster Drink Side Effects
- NBC NEWS MENS HEALTH || Guzzling energy drinks but more tired than ever?
- NPR || Energy Drinks Blamed For Boost In Emergency Room Visits
- NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH || Sleep Quality, Sleep Patterns and Consumption of Energy Drinks and Other Caffeinated Beverages among Peruvian College Students
- PSYCHOLOGY TODAY || Energy Drinks: What Do They Really Do? Why are energy drinks suddenly being investigated?
- SLEEP AND HEALTH JOURNAL || Energy Drinks are the Crave, but do they affect your sleep?
- SLEEP REVIEW || Energy Drinks Cause Insomnia in Athletes
- THE SNORING CENTER || Energy Drinks and Sleep Disruption
- THE TELEGRAPH || Energy drinks cause sleep disorders in children, French health agency warns
- WASHINGTON POST || More than 10 percent of emergency room visits involving energy drinks result in hospitalization
While a cup of coffee offers about 20mg of caffeine for per fluid ounce, take a shot of 5-Hour Energy and you're getting 100mg per fluid ounce of caffeine in a little sip! And the popular energy drink, Hijinks, measures in at almost 182mg per fluid ounce in a shot half the size of 5-Hour Energy!
If that doesn't blow your mind already, there are nearly 400 different varieties of energy drinks listed in the Caffeine Informer database. Who knew? Yes, the energy drink market is vast and compelling when you consider that it's not the only source of caffeine beverages we can purchase freely. Think about all the tea products on the market, the cold-brew coffees, the cold coffee drinks, the caffeine-spiked waters and caffeinated fruit drinks, the sodas and colas, and, of course, America's favorite pastime, coffee itself--from drip to espresso to latte to Americano to the current seasonal craving, PSL*.
Keep in mind a few other things when considering the chart numbers. For one thing, a cup of drip coffee has no calories and no sugar (unless you add them afterward). The amount of sugar that makes up these energy drink formulas is pretty high and can also lead to that stimulant feeling simply by giving the consumer an instant sugar high. (Diabetes, anyone?)
Also, many energy drinks include other stimulant supplements as ingredients. These may be natural products but that does not mean they are any more or less safe than caffeine for people with heart problems, respiratory problems, ADHD, and/or problems with sleep. Guarana, kava, creatine, ginseng and taurine are popular additions which have side effects of their own, such as aggravation of asthma, central nervous system dysfunction, eye problems, insomnia, and heart irregularities.
Finally, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that adolescents get no more than 100 mg of caffeine daily, but nearly all of the energy drinks listed in the chart below far exceed that amount in the packaging sizes most commonly purchased and consumed.
For the boy in Walmart, the AAP is far more restrictive: no daily consumption is recommended. I hope that boy was just having a rare treat that day, but judging by his parents' behavior, I'm inclined to think this problem with energy drinks is probably already a family affair.
Fortunately, quitting energy drinks is not so much different than kicking the coffee habit. Hard, but not impossible. It might take longer with coffee drinks because the brain and body become habituated to higher levels of regular caffeine via energy drinks than they do with simple drip coffee, and there is also the sugar (and, potentially, the supplement) habit to also kick, but with concerted effort, one could still wean oneself off this habit.
With that in mind, here are some ideas for kicking the Monster can to the curb (but please, recycle it, k?):
- COLLEGE INFO GEEK || Kicking A Soda/Energy Drink Habit: A Method That Actually Works
- MENTAL HEALTH TODAY || Caffeine Withdrawal Symptoms: How Long Do They Last? Average Timeline Varies
- WIKI HOW || How to Quit Caffeine
*PSL = Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte.