Intake of stimulant foods is associated with development of parasomnias in children

22 Jul Intake of stimulant foods is associated with development of parasomnias in children

The current lifestyle of children and adolescents, who have been occupied in new technologies and new forms of communication, has changed the sleep and dietary habits increasing unfavourable impacts on their health.

A group of researchers of Sao Paulo Brazil studied if night-time feeding habits could influence sleep, and especially parasomnia, in children. Their method was a cross-sectional, observational study evaluating the Sleep Disturbance Scale for Children – SDSC, a dietary recall, starting time to school, physical activity and nutritional status in children of private and public elementary schools.

Investigators claiming that reductions in the time of sleep are could be associated with metabolic and nutritional derangements, and evidence suggests that individuals who sleep less are more likely to become obese[1]. The type and timing of meals influence metabolite levels, substrate use, and hormone production. This sleep deprivation is particularly harmful to growing children and adolescents inducing excessive daytime sleepiness, changes in their mood.

Children are particularly affected by parasomnia, undesirable physical phenomena or experiences that occur while sleeping, while falling asleep, or on arousal. The main features that this study discussed were: The probabilities of parasomnia in children who consumed stimulant foods or beverages were 2.6 greater the chance of children who consumed non-stimulant foods.  The most prevalent stimulant foods reported were chocolate milk and carbonated soft drinks, both of which contain caffeine.

Caffeine is present in many foods, including coffee beans, tea leaves, chocolate, cocoa beans, cola, nuts, and guarana berries, and it is often added to beverages and, to a lesser extent, to drug formulations. Approximately 80% of the general population consumes or has consumed caffeine at some point.

The main limitation of this study was the use of questionnaires completed by the parents or guardians of participants. Despite the widespread popularity of this method, it can fail to provide the most accurate information, as most parents work outside the home and may be unaware of their children’s true dietary habits.

The findings in this study suggest that intake of stimulant foods is associated with development of parasomnias in children. Nevertheless, emotional and psychological aspects involving family dynamics and academic life should be considered in the pathogenesis of parasomnia, and might even prompt changes in dietary habits.

[1] Spiegel K, Leproult R, Tasali E, Penev P, VanCauter E. Sleep curtailment results in decreased leptin levels and increased hunger and appetite. Sleep. 2003;26:A174.