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Participants wanted for ground-breaking caffeine and sleep study - Massey

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

New Zealand has a strong caffeine culture but as one Massey University Master’s student has found, we are lacking research into the effects caffeine has on the quality of our sleep.

As part of her one-year project at the School of Sport, Exercise and Nutrition, Marjial Hermanoche will look into the effects caffeine consumption has on sleep quality in healthy New Zealand young adults aged 18 to 25 years old, one of the first studies of its kind in New Zealand.

She reports that the psychostimulant drug is most widely consumed to overcome fatigue. However, she is also aware that caffeine consumption has a very cultural and social aspect to it as well. "As young adults, we’re engrained in these habits to ‘catch up with our friends over a coffee’ or to ‘grab a coffee before we start studying’; and often in our busy schedules, our sleep is the first thing to be compromised. We are in this mindset that ‘sleep is for the weak’ and we try to push our bodies to the limits with caffeine, thinking we can handle it."

Miss Hermanoche has been a big consumer of coffee herself since she was a young teen. She is not trying to stop people from consuming caffeine but rather wants to bring awareness of how we can be safer about our consumption. "People may not realise that caffeine has a half-life of about five to six hours, meaning that if a cup of coffee is ingested at 2pm, some of that still remains swirling around your brain at midnight."

In recent years she says she has become interested in sleep research and now has the opportunity to carry on a project that was previously started by another Master’s student, who had created a questionnaire assessing the caffeine intake patterns, influences, and experiences of the New Zealand adult population.

She says previous sleep research has looked at older adults and their manifesting sleeping disorders but there isn’t a lot of research showing if there have been any triggers from their youth causing these disorders later in life.

"This is why the research will be so interesting - it’s possibly the first study of its kind to look at caffeine and sleep in the New Zealand population, which will hopefully provide some real novel data. The majority of research investigating caffeine and sleep has been focused on older adults, and although young adults are thought to be better metabolisers of caffeine, it doesn’t mean we get away without any consequences." Furthermore, she says that most of the research has been carried out in North America and Western Europe.

Her research will be conducted in two parts; approximately 500 participants will be recruited to complete an online survey including the caffeine consumption questionnaire (CaffCo) and the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) questionnaire. The survey data will be used to determine the prevalence of poor sleep quality in young adults and the relationship between caffeine intake and sleep quality.

From there she will recruit 80 of the participants who will be asked to wear a monitoring device on their wrists to track their sleep-wake patterns and assess their sleep and movement throughout the day. They will also be asked to fill out a sleep diary in the morning and night asking how much caffeine they consumed throughout the day and how they slept using a tick box system.

Miss Hermanoche says they will also be looking for participants who do not consume caffeine as they want to compare their results to other caffeine drinkers.

To be eligible to partake in the project a recipient must:

- Be competent in reading English

- In good general health, with no history of heart disease, neurologic or psychiatric illness

- Without any current sleeping problems

- Not employed as a shift-worker

- Between 18-25 years old

- For the second part of the project they must be based in Auckland.

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