Caffeine or Sleep?


Graphic by Daneen K.

E. Harris, Staff writer

You’re sleepy and can’t stay awake to do your work. What are you going to do? Most people go and get coffee or some other caffeinated drink.  But what’s the correlation between sleep and caffeine?

The CDC says that kids 6-12 years of age should be getting 9-12 hours of sleep each night, and teens 13-18 years of age should be getting 8-10 hours of sleep. It is really hard to get this much sleep when you have after-school activities and homework that you have to complete. Kids who don’t get an adequate amount of sleep have a higher risk of developing health, attention, or behavioral problems. And for high school kids, not getting enough sleep can mean not performing well in school. 

Caffeine can be fairly addictive. Web MD says, “Caffeine is a stimulant to the central nervous system, and regular use of caffeine does cause mild physical dependence.” If you suddenly stop drinking caffeine after you have been drinking it a lot, you can experience caffeine withdrawal which can include things like headaches and fatigue. Most people drink caffeinated beverages like coffee because it allows them to feel more awake, and it increases their energy levels making it easier for them to complete different tasks. 

But what is the effect of caffeine on your sleep? You drink caffeine so that you aren’t tired and actually stay awake, but when you drink it you can actually mess up your sleep schedule. Obviously, if you drink caffeine right before you go to bed, then you will probably have a hard time falling asleep. But caffeine can also delay the timing of your body clock. The Sleep Foundation says, “One study examined the effects of caffeine intake, zero, three, and six hours before bedtime, and found that even caffeine consumed six hours before bed could reduce sleep time by one hour.” This means that if you are drinking caffeinated drinks in the evening after school, you could be reducing your sleep time. 

So here you are again, sleepy and cannot stay awake to complete your homework.  This is going to be a common theme throughout your high school and college career.  Many students will continue to drink coffee to make it through these demanding years.  On an infrequent basis, choosing caffeinated beverages will not be such a bad thing.  But if you find that you are frequently in this situation, the continued use of these drinks will cause you to be in a continuous state of sleep deprivation.  So, consider the information shared today and try to determine if there are better options available before reaching for the caffeinated drink.  It might be that better study habits or organization might reduce the frequency of having these long nights.