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Caffeine Consumption Not Found to Significantly Impact Sleep Health, Conflicting With Prior Reports

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A cross-sectional study did not find significant associations between sleep health and consumption of caffeine from coffee or tea in older adults.

An investigation into the influence of caffeine consumption on sleep in older adults found that consuming caffeine did not significantly influence sleep health, according to a study published in Nutrients. In fact, older women who did not consume caffeine were more likely to experience disturbances and have shorter durations of sleep.

Sleep is a crucial component of one’s overall health. As sleep disorders grow more likely with age, sleep health is an important measure to prioritize while getting older. A multitude of factors can impact sleep and the consequences of poor sleep quality can be serious. As the authors of the present study mention, poor sleep health may impair cognitive functioning, worsen quality of life, contribute to risks for disability and all-cause mortality, and more. These associations are troubling when considering older populations (65 years and older) because an estimated 25% of older adults endure insomniac symptoms and fail to achieve the recommended 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night.

Caffeine Molecule Beside Cup of Coffee | image credit: Aleksandr - stock.adobe.com

Caffeine Molecule Beside Cup of Coffee | image credit: Aleksandr - stock.adobe.com

Caffeine is a stimulant that is found in an abundance of drinks and food. Past research has associated caffeine consumption with health benefits included risk reductions for developing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and more; however, caffeine has also been demonstrated to negatively impact sleep latency, efficiency, quality, and duration. Despite these well-known effects, the present authors note the insufficient amount of research dedicated to investigating the impact of caffeine in older populations with systematically higher rates of sleep disorders and disturbances. To address this gap, they conducted a study to investigate the correlation between coffee and tea consumption and sleep health in a group of older Dutch adults.

Data from the Longitudinal Ageing Study Amsterdam (LASA), an ongoing study on older adults concerned with the consequences, determinants, and trajectories of cognitive, emotional, physical, and social functioning, were gathered and results analyzed according to sex. Questionnaires were administered to assess self-reports of sleep duration, quality, and disturbance, among other measures. Additionally, self-reports were conducted to measure the number of cups of coffee and tea participants consumed per day, which were used to calculate caffeine intake.

A total of 1256 individuals were eligible for inclusion (587 men and 669 women). Short sleep durations (less than 7 hours per night) were experienced by 17% of men and just over 26% of women. Sleep disturbances were reported by nearly 26% of men and just above 43% of women. Perceptions of their own sleep quality were “poor” in almost 13% of men and over 22% of women. Overall, men consumed more caffeine on average per day compared with women (286 mg/day vs 244 mg/day). Women consumed less caffeine from coffee and more from tea compared with their male counterparts (167 mg/day and 50 mg/day vs 220 mg/day and 26 mg/day). Just over 9% of women did not consume caffeine, compared with 6.6% of men. The authors noted that those who did not consume caffeine were, on average, less physically active, had more chronic diseases and symptoms of depression, had lower amounts of education, and were older.

Sex and caffeine consumption were significantly linked to experienced disturbances to sleep (P ≤ .002), shorter sleep durations (P ≤ .002), and perceptions of sleep quality (P = .005), but not with age. No correlations between worse sleep health and caffeine consumption were found across women or men. Notably, women who did not consume caffeine were significantly more likely to have shorter sleep durations (OR, 2.26; 95% CI, 1.22-4.20) and report more sleep disturbances (β = 0.64; 95% CI, 0.13-1.15) compared with caffeine consumers.

The authors did not find any significant correlations between consuming caffeine and longer sleep duration or perceptions of sleep quality in either men or women.

As the authors conclude, they stress the need for further research in this area. While their study was useful for identifying significant associations between sleep health and caffeine, they note how these results conflict with prior reports. Furthermore, individual sensitivity to caffeine and the timing of their consumption can influence the impact on sleep health. For future studies, the authors theorize that epidemiological studies that utilize diary entries from participants’ caffeine habits and sleep experiences could provide beneficial insights into this relationship.

Reference

van der Linden M, Olthof MR, Wijnhoven HAH. The association between caffeine consumption from coffee and tea and sleep health in male and female older adults: a cross-sectional study. Nutrients. 2023;16(1):131. doi:10.3390/nu16010131

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