The first time I saw the babyccino in a cafe I felt a surge of anger. Although it has no caffeine it’s a stepping stone to the real thing, and coffee and kids are a very bad mix.
Children and adolescents are harmed by caffeine due to the effects it has on a still developing brain.
Obviously it’s not just coffee and kids it’s other things too:
- Caffeinated soft drinks, e.g. cola
- Energy drinks – huge amounts of caffeine!
Effect Of Caffeine On Developing Brains
Construction of the brain begins in the womb, and it doesn’t finish until about age 20. This is why teenagers can be a bit of a nightmare – they have a less rational version of an adult brain. Their brains haven’t matured yet.
The driving force of brain maturation is sleep.
Up until around 6 months old a baby will spend its sleep time equally split between REM (dream sleep) and NREM sleep.
NREM is non dream sleep and ranges from light sleep to deep sleep.
Older children and adolescents shift towards having more NREM sleep and less REM, and by late teens NREM represents 80% of sleep time.
In early life REM sleep builds loads of connections in the young brain between the millions and millions of brain cells.
Later these connections need to be shaped and matured, and this happens during deep NREM sleep.
Although it’s possible to get a night’s sleep even if you’ve had caffeine – caffeine knocks out the deeper stages of NREM sleep, keeping you in the lighter stages.
Kids and even teenagers need significantly more sleep than adults. They need this because their bodies and brains are still developing.
Teenagers in particular who drink caffeine are unwittingly shooting themselves in the foot because they are already dealt a poor hand by modern society. They are biologically wired to go to bed later than most adults and therefore need to get up later. Because of school, college, and university they are forced to get up earlier than is good for them. So their sleep tends to be cut short.
When they add caffeine into the mix they will be knocking out at good part of their deep NREM sleep.
Because caffeine is literally everywhere it has become normalised and there’s a tendency to forget it is a psychoactive addictive drug.
What other psychoactive addictive drugs do parents give their kids, and what others can kids freely buy in the shops?
All addictive drugs have harmful effects, caffeine in not exception.
Food for thought…
Coffee and kids