Alcohol formula

Alcohol can give you a bad night’s sleep. Here’s what you need to know

Having a few drinks can make you feel relaxed and sleepy, so it might seem like drinking before bed would help you sleep well, right? In reality, this is not the case – at all. Although drinking alcohol may put you to sleep faster, your sleep cycle will suffer significantly.

“Unfortunately, alcohol never improves sleep. Although alcohol helps to relax, making it easier for some to fall asleep, three to four hours after falling asleep people wake up and can’t sleep. people who are addicted to alcohol can’t fall asleep if they don’t drink,” says Dr. John Mendelson, founder of Ria Health and clinical professor of medicine at the University of California. in San Francisco.

Here’s how alcohol can impact your sleep, and how you can time your drinking to ensure you always get a good night’s rest.

How does alcohol affect sleep?

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, which is why it gives you that nice, relaxed feeling. This is why so many of us fall asleep after drinking, and why it can seem like alcohol helps you sleep. How alcohol affects your sleep is not a simple and simple thing, as alcohol consumption influences the quality of your sleep in many ways.

To be clear, we’re not just talking about binge drinking or binge drinking; a drink or two too close to bedtime can have a big impact on your sleep.

Here are four ways alcohol affects your sleep.

Alcohol disrupts REM sleep

Its relaxing properties make alcohol seem as a surefire way to sleep at night. However, the quality of restful and restorative sleep decreases. Research has shown that drinking alcohol disrupts your sleep cycle, particularly REM sleep. Remember that REM sleep is where dreaming occurs.

“Evidence now suggests that alcohol-deep sleep is also associated with increased frontal alpha waves, markers of wakefulness, and sleep disturbances. Thus, alcohol-deep sleep is probably not restorative,” says Dan Ford, sleep psychologist and founder. from the Best Sleep Clinic.

So while you may initially fall asleep faster, you don’t get the benefits of REM sleep throughout the night. When you don’t get enough REM sleep, you don’t feel rested and you’ll find that affects your performance the next day. Studies have shown that daytime alertness decreases the day after a night of heavy drinking.

You wake up more often after a few drinks

We mentioned that alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. This means that the excitatory nerve cells in your brain are suppressed, so you fall asleep. But for most people, it doesn’t last long. As your body metabolizes alcohol, excitatory nerves rebound. This process can wake you up and have trouble getting back to sleep.

Although it is common, it does not happen to everyone. To those I say, consider yourself lucky. This side effect happens to me almost every time I have a drink at night. Sure, the cocktail party is fun while it lasts, but let me tell you, when I stare at my ceiling at three in the morning, I wish I had skipped it completely.

Latino woman holding bottle of beer in one hand and her head with the other while drinking in bed

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Alcohol suppresses the production of melatonin in our body

Our body produces melatonin to help control our sleep-wake cycle, which coincides with sunlight. Our pineal gland releases melatonin when the sun goes down and we start to feel tired. When you drink, you essentially cancel your sleep-wake cycle.

Alcohol consumption decreases the production of melatonin, whether the sun is down or not. One study found that drinking alcohol an hour before going to sleep can suppress melatonin production by 20%.

We know what you’re thinking: I can just take a melatonin supplement and fight the side effects. Not so fast; it is not recommended to mix alcohol and melatonin. Potential side effects may include anxiety, high blood pressure, dizziness, or breathing problems. On a larger scale, mixing the two can affect your liver’s ability to produce certain enzymes.

Alcohol can amplify the effects of sleep disturbances

In the case of obstructive sleep apnea, where the throat muscles and tongue already interfere with the airways, alcohol makes the situation worse. When you drink alcohol before bed and have sleep apnea, your throat muscles will be even more relaxed and collapse more often, resulting in frequent pauses in breathing that last longer. than normal.

Research suggests that drinking alcohol increases the risk of sleep apnea by 25%. It also contributes to the lowest oxygen saturation levels in patients with obstructive sleep apnea. Oxygen saturation measures the amount of oxygen in your blood and how efficiently it is able to transport it to your brain, heart, and extremities.

Alcohol can also aggravate insomnia, the most common sleep disorder characterized by difficulty falling asleepwaking up all night or waking up too early in the morning.

It is estimated that between 35% and 70% of people who drink alcohol suffer from insomnia. It’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation – insomnia issues can be made worse by drinking alcohol. And insomnia has the potential to contribute to alcohol addiction.

On the surface, the sedative effects of alcohol may seem to ease symptoms of insomnia and help you fall asleep. But given the likelihood of REM sleep disturbances and frequent awakenings, it’s not recommended that anyone use alcohol to treat their insomnia symptoms.

Close up shot of whiskey on the rocks

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How to sleep better after drinking alcohol

You can still have a drink and sleep well. Use these tips to make sure your favorite cocktail never keeps you up at night.

Pay attention to the impact of alcohol on your sleep

You need to be aware of the effects of alcohol on you and your sleep schedules. “Keep a sleep diary to measure duration and quality, and add to that diary the amount of drinks and times to see if you notice any trends related to sleep quality,” advises Mendelson.

It can be as complex or simple as you want. You can record it in a diary or just check in in the morning. The impact of alcohol on your sleep will be specific to you. If you make an effort to pay attention to how it affects you, you can set boundaries for your body and your needs.

Avoid using alcohol as a sleep aid

We all have tricks we use to fall asleep rapidly. But consuming alcohol is not a healthy way to get quality sleep. And it turns out that it is a method that does not last long. Behavioral studies have shown that while two to three drinks before bed help you fall asleep, the effects diminish over time – as early as six days of continuous use (PDF).

If you have trouble falling asleep, consider replacing the nightcap with relaxing activities in your night routine. It could be anything that helps your body relax: reading a book, taking a bubble bath, or doing yoga.

Stop drinking at least four hours before going to bed

You can still enjoy a cocktail and sleep well. It is not necessary to completely give up alcohol, but time your drinks can be the difference between sleeping through the night and tossing and turning.

“If you choose to drink alcohol, drink in moderation and stop at least four hours before bedtime to avoid its negative effects on healthy sleep,” advises Dr. Raj Dasgupta, assistant professor of clinical medicine at Keck. Southern University School of Medicine. California.

To put that into perspective, four hours before bedtime is about dinner time for most people. Four hours is a good benchmark because it gives your body time to metabolize the alcohol to make sure it won’t impact your sleep.

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Too long, didn’t you read?

We’re not here to tell you that a drop of alcohol will ruin the quality of your sleep. However, there are a few nuances that you will come across. Drinking alcohol, especially within four hours of bedtime, may help you fall asleep faster, but will eventually reduce your REM sleep and risk waking you up later. Time your cocktails or exchange your drink for a mocktail is a great way to make sure you sleep soundly all night.

The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical or health advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.