How does alcohol affect sleep?

How does alcohol affect sleep?

Read time: 4 minutes

What’s inside?

  • How does alcohol affect sleep?
  • How alcohol alters your sleep cycle
  • How alcohol impacts sleep apnea
  • How alcohol messes with melatonin
  • Practical tips for alcohol and sleep
  • What about the odd blow-out?


How does alcohol affect sleep?

Using both caffeine as a pick-me-up and alcohol as a way to relax have become standard in many cultures, however, there is an intricate relationship between alcohol and sleep. While a glass of wine or a quick gin & tonic might seem like the perfect nightcap, the truth about how they can affect our sleep is far more complex.


How Alcohol Alters Your Sleep Cycle

It's a pretty common belief a little alcohol before bed can help you drift off to sleep faster.

The truth is… it can.

However, this is just the calm surface of a much more eratic interaction between alcohol and your sleep cycle.

When alcohol is metabolised in your body, it significantly disrupts your sleep cycle, particularly during the second half of the night. This disruption primarily affects your REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. REM is a crucial phase for memory consolidation and mood regulation. The more alcohol you consume and the closer this consumption is to your bedtime, the more pronounced these effects becom​​e.


What about alcohol and sleep apnea?

For those of us suffering from sleep disorders like sleep apnea, alcohol is a definite no-go. Alcohol relaxes the muscles in your throat, increasing the risk of airway obstruction and worsening the sleep apnea symptoms.


How does alcohol mess with melatonin?

Alcohol also messes with your sleep-wake cycle by suppressing melatonin, the hormone responsible for regulating sleep. This can lead to a disrupted circadian rhythm and overall poorer sleep qualit​​y.


Practical Tips for Managing Alcohol for Better Sleep

  1. Moderation Is Key: If you choose to drink, do so in moderation. This will lessen the impact on your sleep.
  2. Timing Matters: Avoid alcohol at least 3-4 hours before bedtime to allow your body time to metabolise it.
  3. Stay Hydrated: Drink water alongside alcoholic beverages to combat dehydration.
  4. Create a Sleep-Friendly Environment: Ensure your sleeping environment is conducive to good sleep — dark, cool, and quiet.
  5. Establish a Sleep Routine: A consistent sleep schedule can help mitigate some of the disruptive effects of alcohol on sleep.


So, should I never drink before sleep?

Well, for some that could be like saying you can never go out and play again. Keeping an eye on your long term health and how alcohol impacts that is a good thing.

Having the odd blow-out with friends is unlikely to impact that long term goal, so long as it isn’t a regular thing.

We all gotta let go sometimes.

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