A glass of wine before sleep? Learn why Alcohol and Sleep is not a good combination.
Alcohol and Sleep is a false friendship but still, it’s a common belief that alcohol makes falling asleep and sleep itself easier. Here are three main ways excess alcohol works against a good night’s sleep:
Alcohol disrupt your sleep architecture
The architecture of your sleep consists of a cycle of non-rapid eye movement phases (NREM) and rapid eye movement (REM) stage. Even light consumption of alcohol could lead to shortened REM phase.
A healthy balance of NREM and REM sleep is the key to a good night’s sleep. The alcohol’s effects on sleep are the reason you wake up feeling groggy after a long night partying. A broad comparison between substances impact on sleep quality you can find on campushealth.unc.edu.
Recovery of the normal sleep cycle after a night of heavy drinking takes three nights. Take a look at the graphic from spreadthehealthbu.com.
Alcohol aggravate sleep apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is another reason why alcohol and sleep are the worst enemies. The OSA is caused by the obstruction of the airways during the sleep. Then you wake up to prevent the asphyxiation during the night. The most shortened phase is REM. It’s because during REM the muscle tone is the lowest and the obstruction generally occurs.
According to European Respiratory Journal, alcohol abuse is one of the risk factors that aggravate or even temporarily cause sleep apnea. This, in turn, has a negative domino effect on your sleep quality. Alcohol relaxes muscles all around your body, lowering soft palate that leads to snoring and eventually to full obstruction.
Alcoholics are four times more likely to suffer from OSA than non-alcoholics. So what, some may ask? Well, you have quadruple chance to get one of these:
Look up at healthform.org to find out more about OSA causes, effects, and possible treatments.
Hangover disrupts sleep
A great page compoundchem.com created an easy graph showing the basics of hangover physiology. Compoundchem.com is a great web page about chemistry science news and trivia.
Increased production of urine causes frequent wakes to urinate after alcohol’s sedative effects wear off. Then in the morning, you wake up early because of dehydration.
Alcohol consumption disrupts your sleep in two ways. Directly by shortening your REM stages. Indirectly, by causing sleep apnea and restlessness.
Drinking alcohol to fall asleep is a devil’s bargain. You will fall asleep faster but the sleep you get will be low-quality and often interrupted. Sometimes it may be tempting, especially when you travel overseas having jet lag. However, you should remember, there are many others, scientifically proven techniques described on our blog that you may apply instead of alcohol.
My advice: don’t drink when you got sleep problems.
What is your best solution for restless nights? Please write in the comment below!
The medical science liaison in Neuroon Open, Medical Doctor. I am interested in psychiatry, neuroscience, and epistemology. As a former biology-class teacher and a physician by profession, I try to explain complicated and non-trivial subjects of neuroscience and psychiatry in an easy-understandable fashion. I produce and play music in my free time.