I’m a nationally published sleep expert, journalist, and the mom of three young kids. I’ve been helping tired families sleep since 2007 (more about me here). Subscribe to The Well Rested Family for fresh news and tips on keeping your bunch happy and healthy. Thanks for stopping by!


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Entries in caffeine (2)


Five "Energy Boosters" That Aren't

Last week, I posted about quick energy boosters for times when you’re superbusy, skimping on sleep, and running low on energy. When your energy starts sinking, it can be tough to right the ship. One big reason: lots of energy boosters are actually energy drains in disguise.

Sugary Snacks

Sugar seems like the fastest route to an energy boost—but like many supposed energy-boosters, it’s actually an energy drain. In a well-known study, California State University-Long Beach professor Robert Thayer, Ph.D. had 18 people either eat a candy bar or take a brisk 10-minute walk. He found that a brisk walk boosted energy for two hours, while the sweet treat left participants feeling more tired an hour later. For energy that lasts, try swapping sugary snacks for nuts, dried fruit, or yogurt.


If you start the day with a big cup of java, beware: the added energy it gives you isn’t free. The National Sleep Foundation reports that overdoing caffeine can lead to an energy crash when its stimulating effects start to wear off 6-8 hours later. So a 6 a.m. jolt of caffeine could contribute to the dreaded 2 p.m. mega-slump. Go halfsies in caffeine by requsting a "half decaf" latte, or drink tea instead.


When you’re overwhelmed with work or family commitments, a night out with friends (or ANYthing out of the house) sounds like a great energy boost. But it might leave you more stressed and distracted, especially if you tend to absorb the energy and social cues of everyone around you and get overinvolved in draining conversations. I don’t advocate closing yourself off from the world, because a well-chosen social engagement can boost your energy. But other commitments can leave you drained and distracted, so when your energy is running low, don’t feel obligated to be a social butterfly. Cut social commitments that don’t bring you joy, and watch your energy swell. (Here’s a great post by Sophia Dembling at PsychologyToday.com on “Plugging Energy Drains” by saying no social pressure.) 

Social Media

Social media is many things—fun, engaging, expansive—but when you’re scraping the bottom of the energy barrel, it’s not the best place to be. Social media are every bit as draining as in-person social interactions, times 100: In a single page view, you have dozens of people complaining, asking for help, requesting your opinion, gloating about their own accomplishments, and generally fighting for your eyeballs. How can that not be draining? If it’s an energy boost you’re after, try directing your browser elsewhere—a 5-minute inbox sweep or a quick peek at a news website or blog gives you a feeling of connectedness with the outside world, without the eye-popping energy suck.

Ignoring the Mess

When energy and time are scarce, it’s easy to let clutter build up and chaos reign in order to devote precious minutes elsewhere. But clutter saps your energy and sours your mood. If a whole-house scrubdown is out of the question right now, aim to conquer one corner of your space each day. Set a timer for 10 or 15 minutes and blast through it—you’ll get a mini-buzz of accomplishment to fuel the rest of your day.


Kids, Caffeine, and Sleep

Bad news for parents: kids who sip caffeine sleep less According to the National Sleep Foundation, 65 percent of women rely on caffeine to make it through the day. I plead guilty to daily coffee consumption—after all, I live in Washington, where espresso shops seem to outnumber people—but I’m as strict and strict can be when it comes to caffeine and my kids. These days, many kids are drinking energy drinks when they’re barely old enough to read the can: another recent study found that 75 percent of kids 5-12 drink caffeine daily.

This study, published in The Journal of Pediatrics, reported that the more caffeine kids consume, the less they sleep. That’s bad news, because sleep troubles in children are linked to everything from insulin resistance to irritability to impaired school performance.

Caffeine is tricky to track, because it’s not listed on nutrition labels.  So kids who drink coffee, soda, and energy drinks can exceed safe caffeine limits quickly, easily, and legally.

In their October 2011 article on caffeine, Consumer Reports recommends that children shouldn’t drink more than 45-85 milligrams per day. Many sleep doctors, however, will tell parents to aim for an even lower caffeine intake: zero. Kids shouldn’t drink caffeine, period. Especially if they’re experiencing any type of sleep problem.

Here are some quick caffeine facts:

  • Did you know Barq’s Root Beer contains caffeine, and A&W Root Beer doesn’t?
  • Did you know Diet Coke has more caffeine than Diet Pepsi?
  • Did you know that Starbucks drip coffee has more caffeine than Dunkin’ Donuts?

For more information, including hard-to-find information on the amount of caffeine in popular foods and drinks, check out the CR article. And join me in my fervent hope that caffeine will be listed on nutrition labels soon. It wouldn’t solve the caffeine-and-kids problem, but it would be a start.