Energy drink consumption and its association with sleep problems among U.S. service members on a combat deployment - Afghanistan, 2010

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2012 Nov 9;61(44):895-8.


Beverages marketed as energy drinks have become a popular form of caffeine consumption targeted at young males, with some brands containing the caffeine equivalent of 1-3 cups of coffee or cans of soda. Energy drinks also include other ingredients intended to boost physical energy or mental alertness, such as herbal substances, amino acids, sugars, and sugar derivatives; however, caffeine is the main active ingredient. Approximately 6% of adolescent and young adult males in U.S. civilian and military populations consume energy drinks daily. These products generally are unregulated and can have negative side effects (e.g., caffeine intoxication, overdose, withdrawal, and poor interactions with alcohol). Paradoxically, excess consumption also can increase sleep problems and daytime sleepiness, which can impair performance. To determine the extent of energy drink use and the association with sleep problems and sleepiness during combat operations, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research analyzed data collected by Joint Mental Health Advisory Team 7 (J-MHAT 7) to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan in 2010. The analysis showed that 44.8% of deployed service members consumed at least one energy drink daily, with 13.9% drinking three or more a day. No differences by age or rank were found. Service members drinking three or more energy drinks a day were significantly more likely to report sleeping ≤4 hours a night on average than those consuming two drinks or fewer. Those who drank three or more drinks a day also were more likely to report sleep disruption related to stress and illness and were more likely to fall asleep during briefings or on guard duty. Service members should be educated regarding the potential adverse effects of excessive energy drink consumption on sleep and mission performance and should be encouraged to moderate their energy drink consumption in combat environments.

MeSH terms

  • Afghan Campaign 2001-
  • Afghanistan
  • Age Factors
  • Data Collection
  • Drinking Behavior
  • Energy Drinks / adverse effects*
  • Energy Drinks / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Military Personnel / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / chemically induced*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / epidemiology
  • Task Performance and Analysis