Teens and caffeine: How much is too much?

teenagerI am always amazed by the number of teens at Starbucks buying coffee or highly caffeinated drinks. As a nurse in the Sleep Center at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, it makes me think about how all this caffeine affects their sleep.

Caffeine is a stimulant that makes you feel alert and awake. If you consume too much or drink it too close to bedtime, caffeine can lead to difficulty sleeping and waking in the middle of the night.

In the past, teens typically consumed caffeine from soft drinks or candy, but not anymore. They are drinking coffee, caffeinated water and energy drinks that pack a larger caffeine punch than soft drinks or candy. A grande glass of coffee from Starbucks has 320 mg of caffeine. A bottle of 5-Hour Energy has 207 mg compared to a soft drink that has 50 mg. Parents should be aware of the amount of caffeine in the products their teens are consuming.

So how much caffeine is too much?

The Food and Drug Administration doesn’t have specific recommendations for caffeine intake. Some advise teens should limit their caffeine intake to 100 mg per day and younger kids should get even less. Keeping caffeine at a minimum can help improve overall moods and sleep patterns. If you feel your teen is getting too much caffeine, here are some suggestions to limit his or her intake:

  • Make sure your teen is getting the recommended nine hours of sleep per night. Teens who are sleep deprived and tired, may find it harder to resist caffeine throughout the day.
  • Have small, nutritious snacks available instead of sugary or caffeinated ones. Swap out coffee and soft drinks for noncaffeinated beverages.
  • Avoid caffeine after 4 p.m. It takes approximately four hours for your body to eliminate half of the caffeine you’ve consumed.

Megan Grekowicz, MSN, APRN, FNP-BC- Megan Grekowicz, MSN, APRN, FNP-BC, pediatric nurse practitioner, Sleep Center, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin

The Sleep Center at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin is the only sleep center in the state dedicated solely to the care of children and teens. The center has two locations (Milwaukee and New Berlin) both accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and staffed by four board-certified pediatric sleep specialists.

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