Issue Navigator

Volume 13 No. 04
Earn CME
Accepted Papers

Scientific Investigations

The Relationship Between Caffeine, Sleep, and Behavior in Children

Emily J. Watson, Bachelor of Psychology (Honors)1; Siobhan Banks, PhD1; Alison M. Coates, PhD2; Mark J. Kohler, PhD1
1Centre for Sleep Research, School of Psychology, University of South Australia, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia; 2Alliance for Research in Exercise, Nutrition and Activity, School of Health Sciences, University of South Australia, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Study Objectives:

To examine caffeine consumption from various dietary sources in a cohort of Australian children and the relationship between caffeine consumption, sleep, and daytime behavior.


Children aged 8 to 12 years and their parents/guardians completed a battery of questionnaires. Children completed a caffeine questionnaire while parents completed questionnaires regarding demographics, sleep, and behavior.


The final sample consisted of 309 children (mean ± standard deviation [SD] age 10.6 ± 1.3 years, male = 48%) and corresponding parent reports. On average a mean ± SD 10.2 ± 17.4 mg/day of caffeine was consumed with a range of zero to 151 mg/day. Of the children who consumed caffeine (87% of the sample), the largest contributor was coffee and tea; making up 41% of total caffeine intake, and sodas (soft drinks) contributed to 40% of caffeine intake. Total caffeine consumption was significantly associated with sleep routine (r = 0.152); morning tiredness (r = 0.129); restless sleep (r = 0.113); and internalizing behavioral problems (r = 0.128). Using path analysis, caffeine consumption was positively associated with morning tiredness (β = 0.111, P = .050) which was positively associated with internalizing behaviors (β = 0.432, P < .001). The addition of sleep routine and restless sleep to the model led to a complete mediation of caffeine consumption on morning tiredness, as well as a partial mediation of the association between morning tiredness and internal behaviors.


In 8- to 12-year-olds the primary sources of caffeine are coffee/tea and sodas. Overall mean caffeine consumption is small by adult standards but has an effect on behavior and sleep in children. The effect on behavior is mediated by disrupted sleep, indicating that caffeine is a contributor to sleep problems and related behavior in children.


Watson EJ, Banks S, Coates AM, Kohler MJ. The relationship between caffeine, sleep and behavior in children. J Clin Sleep Med. 2017;13(4):533–543.

Please login to continue reading the full article

Subscribers to JCSM get full access to current and past issues of the JCSM.

Login to JCSM

Not a subscriber?

Join the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and receive a subscription to JCSM with your membership