Alcohol and Sleep- What you need to know

If you think that just one beer or wine will help you fall asleep at night after a long day, think again. While it’s easy for people to nod off after a few drinks, alcohol actually has negative effects on your quality of sleep.

It is estimated that over a third of adults have used alcohol as a method to help them fall asleep at least 3 times a month. Insomnia is common among many adults and there are ways to sleep easier at night without the negative effects of alcohol.

Here are four ways that alcohol can mess with your sleep:

  1. It can affect how deep your sleep is: rapid eye movement (or REM) is a stage of sleep where people dream. Researchers call it the “mentally restorative” state of sleep. Alcohol affects this by interfering with REM stage, so you are not getting as deep of a sleep as you would without alcohol in your system, and it has also been known to induce nightmares. This makes you feel exhausted the next day, and let’s face it, nightmares will not help you get a good night’s sleep.
  2. You will find yourself waking up frequently throughout the night: alcohol makes you feel dehydrated as it encourages the body to loose extra fluid, so you may be running to the toilet in the middle of the night a few times, which is never any fun.
  3. It makes you snore loudly, even if you have never snored before: alcohol relaxes the muscles in your body, which also means that your breathing patterns will not circulate properly, which means you are likely to snore
  4. Alcohol shortens the length of time that you sleep for: as mentioned above, that important “REM” stage of sleep that is affected when you drink will also cause you to wake up after only a few hours of sleep. As the alcohol starts to wear off, your body will easily go out of that deep sleep cycle you may think you’re getting and it will cause you to wake up easily too, thus affecting your quality of sleep

The bottom line is this; alcohol should not be used as a method to fall asleep. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a drink or two at the end of a hard day, but be sure to quit a few hours before it’s time to go to sleep. See your doctor if you are having trouble sleeping and need help.

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