What Effect Does Alcohol Have On Sleep

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It’s a fairly common scenario: You’ve been having trouble sleeping lately due to stress, so you drink an extra glass of wine before bed to help you fall asleep. By the time your glass is empty, you’ll definitely be sleepy—and you’ll fall asleep much faster than usual, too. But for some reason, you wake up a lot at night and don’t exactly feel 100% the next day. Is the immediate increase in sleep worth the compensation?

What Effect Does Alcohol Have On Sleep

What Effect Does Alcohol Have On Sleep

All evidence points to “no”. While drinking alcohol may help you sleep on the front end, it’s not the healthiest solution to a good night’s rest. Drinking can negatively affect the quality and duration of your sleep and is even linked to more serious sleep problems such as insomnia.

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Need some eyeliner? Here’s what you need to know about alcohol’s effect on sleep and how to drink and sleep responsibly.

Since alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, it can make you feel relaxed, drowsy, and even completely sleepy. This is why many people, understandably, rely on alcohol as a ‘nightcap’. Unfortunately, however, the effects of alcohol do not last long after a person’s blood alcohol concentration has reached its peak. And drinking alcohol to sleep—especially excessively and long-term—can have significant negative health effects.

Researchers have consistently found that drinking alcohol can lead to lighter sleep and more frequent nighttime awakenings. People who drink before bed are less likely to experience nutritious REM sleep. Losing this important part of sleep can interfere with memory consolidation and other cognitive processes. This sleep disorder is multifactorial, but one potential cause may be due in part to alcohol’s effect on certain sleep hormones that are needed to regulate our sleep cycle and get the rest we need.

Alcohol can affect more than just sleep quality. Alcohol consumption can increase a person’s risk of snoring and obstructive sleep apnea, a condition that causes the airway to become blocked when the muscles around the throat relax. People who already snore or sleep apnea experience worse snoring and even lower blood oxygen levels after drinking before bed.

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In addition to feeling tired and fighting the insatiable urge to snooze the next day, a night of tossing and turning can also interfere with daytime functioning and lead to confusion and a feeling of “brain fog.” Over time, lack of sleep can also affect mental health.

In general, the more or more frequently you drink alcohol, the worse the effects. A 2018 study compared sleep quality among people who consumed different amounts of alcohol. The research found that people who consumed higher amounts of alcohol (more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men) slept 39.2 percent worse than those who consumed low or moderate amounts of alcohol.

Research shows that using alcohol as a sleep aid can lead to alcohol abuse because over time, people tend to drink more to achieve the same effect (in this case, sleep). So if you currently rely on a few cocktails for a night out, it’s important for your health and general well-being to adjust your routine.

What Effect Does Alcohol Have On Sleep

To start, consider your overall alcohol consumption. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends avoiding or limiting alcohol consumption to no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men to avoid most of the harms of alcohol. If you’re going to have a drink at night, have a sip with your dinner (ideally four hours before bed) rather than right before bed, and do your best to stay in moderation.

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At the same time, focus on building better sleep hygiene into your daily routine. Along with reducing your overall alcohol consumption, try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, create a cozy and calm environment in the room where you sleep, and avoid watching screens for a few hours before bed. Physical activity during the day can also help improve the quality and duration of sleep.

Still can’t get the restorative sleep you’ve been waiting for? If you’re concerned about your sleep or alcohol use, don’t hesitate to talk to your primary care provider about it. It’s not easy to change your routine—or ask for the support of a professional who cares—but your long-term health will only benefit from it.

Do you think your drinking is becoming a problem? Your primary care provider can also help by assessing your current level of drinking, connecting you with resources, and even providing medication to help reduce cravings.

We all need a little help sometimes. At One Medical, we are here to provide non-judgmental care whenever you need us. To learn more, visit us remotely or in person today.

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Alcohol not only relaxes you after a long week at the office, but it also relaxes your throat muscles, increasing the likelihood of upper airway collapse, causing snoring or obstructive sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is a serious condition that affects many Americans. If left undiagnosed, it can lead to serious health problems such as stroke, heart disease, and high blood pressure (learn more about the health effects of sleep apnea).

What Effect Does Alcohol Have On Sleep

Alcohol may help you sleep because it acts like a sedative. According to a National Sleep Foundation survey, 30% of people with persistent insomnia in the general population reported using alcohol to help them sleep in the past year, and 67% of these people reported that alcohol was effective in inducing sleep. have been.

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The problem with using alcohol to treat insomnia is that its effects may wear off as tolerance develops, leading to excessive alcohol consumption. Additionally, while drinking alcohol at night may help you fall asleep faster, it may cause daytime sleepiness or other performance-impairing effects.

Furthermore, any “positive” effects of alcohol may be reduced by disruption of the sleep cycle (see below) or worsening of other conditions, such as sleep apnea (see above).

After about the first hour and a half of sleep, your body enters the REM cycle, but alcohol can actually reduce the effectiveness of the sleep stage or even override the first cycle. This is when you dream and this state is considered the most restorative state of sleep. There are typically six to seven REM sleep cycles interspersed with deep sleep cycles (learn more about sleep basics here).

Alcohol consumption leads to the loss of several REM cycles, leaving your brain sleep deprived. The REM cycle restores your brain while deep sleep restores your body. Because alcohol can put you straight into a deep sleep, it feels like a restful sleep, but you can wake up mentally drained. This is why it can be difficult to stay asleep for more than a few hours after drinking. This can have a cumulative effect to the extent that similar problems occur even after abstinence from alcohol.

How Does Alcohol Impact Sleep?

Most doctors agree that for healthy, nonalcoholic people, one to two drinks has only a minimal effect (depending on other health factors, including BMI), but more than that can negatively impact your much-needed rest. If you’ve been relying on alcohol to help you sleep better, there may be an underlying medical condition that you may not even be aware of that is preventing you from getting a good night’s sleep. If you have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, or wake up in the morning after a long time and still feel tired, you may have a sleep disorder.

Julia joined Advanced Sleep Medicine Services in 2011 with a background in sales, marketing and customer service. He is currently the Vice President of Marketing and Operations and enjoys the opportunity to educate and engage with those seeking to improve their health through better sleep.


What Effect Does Alcohol Have On Sleep

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