Sleep is one of the most vital aspects of our health. Studies have found that poor sleep can affect weight, mood, immune function, and concentration, among other health facets. Needless to say, when you mess with your sleep, you’re messing with your whole being.
Alcohol has long been known as a contributing factor to poor sleep. As a central nervous system depressant, alcohol slows down your brain activity, altering your mood, self-control, and physical control. Those depressant properties also help you fall asleep faster.
Unfortunately, that sleep quickly wears off when your body starts trying to rid itself of alcohol. Once your body decides it’s had quite enough of the booze, all those sedative properties go out the window, causing you to wake up halfway through your slumber.
Restorative sleep and alcohol
To understand how alcohol affects your sleep, let’s talk about the four stages of a normal sleep cycle. Typically, there are three non-rapid eye movement (NREM) stages and one rapid-eye movement (REM) stage. Each of these cycles lasts about 90-120 minutes.
Stages 1-3 of NREM sleep progress from wakefulness to deep sleep. Your heartbeat, breathing rates, and brain activity reach low levels, and muscles relax completely. REM sleep happens about 90 minutes after you fall asleep. Your heartbeat increases, and so does your breathing rate. It’s thought that dreaming usually takes place in REM sleep.
When you drink alcohol, sleep comes quickly due to the production of adenosine, a sleep-inducing chemical found in the brain. You fall asleep quicker but miss the first two crucial cycles of REM sleep, which are vital to restorative sleep. This disruption causes shorter sleep duration and is one of the reasons a night out on the town can leave you feeling supremely groggy the next day.
How can I snooze and not lose the booze?
The most important thing to remember is that alcohol is not a sleep aid in any way, shape, or form. It’s incredibly disruptive to such an essential component — sleep — of our overall health. While drinking in moderation has long been the standard, everyone reacts differently to alcohol, which means their sleep is affected differently.
If you do indulge, allow at least three hours after your last drink before you hit the hay and drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated. For better sleep quality, though, try the following:
- Mindfully drinking then switching to non-alcoholic cocktails, wines, and beers during your next outing
- Avoid caffeine and nicotine in the evening
- Get regular exercise
- Keep your bedroom cool
- Make sure your bed is used for sleeping and intimacy ONLY
- Keep a regular sleep schedule
The statements in this blog are not intended to replace medical advice.