Drinking Before Bed Won’t Help You Sleep Better

Those participants with histories of greater alcohol consumption showed less self-rated sleepiness after the alcohol challenge than did participants with histories of lower alcohol consumption. In the latter case, the different perceptions of alcohol’s effects may result from differential expectations regarding alcohol’s effects. Among alcohol dependent persons, acute intoxication induces sleep onset, albeit with disruptions in the latter half of the night. Sleep is more severely disturbed during withdrawal and recovery, with longer sleep latency, more arousals, poor sleep efficiency, reduced slow wave sleep and REM rebound (42–45). Cross-sectional studies suggest that for nearly half of alcohol dependent patients sleep disturbance persists for months after last use , and can last for 2 years or longer .

Some people may resort to drinking alcohol as a sleep aid or agent that initiates sleep. The study revealed that alcohol reduced the restorative quality of sleep. Specifically, a low alcohol intake decreased the physiological recovery that sleep normally provides by 9.3 percent.

Thus, increased sleepiness compounded alcohol’s effects, whereas increased alertness diminished alcohol’s effects. Some investigators have separately analyzed alcohol’s effects during the first and second half of the nighttime sleep period.

This can decrease your sleep quality and may lead to less sleep and more awakenings. It’s important to treat sleep disorders such as insomnia or sleep apnea if they are present. This article explores how alcohol affects your quality of sleep. It also covers what symptoms you might have if you don’t wait long enough between having your last drink and going to bed. Having the occasional nightcap to unwind is no biggie and may help you fall asleep faster. Unsurprisingly, studies of people with insomnia have also found that heavy alcohol use exacerbates insomnia . People who wake up feeling unrefreshed may be more likely to rely on alcohol again to help them sleep the next night, leading to a counterproductive pattern of alcohol use.

Parasomnias are abnormal or problematic behaviors that can occur during sleep. These sleep disorders include nightmares and sleepwalking, for example. Alcohol’s disruptive effect on sleep also make a person more vulnerable to parasomnias.

Researchers have found that insomnia is a risk factor for alcohol abuse. Sleep disorders like insomnia can co-occur with alcohol abuse, and treating insomnia can improve a person’s sleep quality while in recovery. In the first half of the night, when the body is metabolizing alcohol, studies show people spend more time in deep, slow-wave sleep and less time in REM sleep. It may sound like a good idea to spend more time in deep sleep. Sleep architecture is biologically driven and finely calibrated to meet the body’s needs during nightly rest—changes to the natural, typical structure of sleep aren’t generally good for health or well being.

We’re Here Any Time Of The Day To Talk

Research indicates that a moderate dose of alcohol up to an hour before bedtime can reduce melatonin production by nearly 20 percent. Alcohol has a direct effect on circadian rhythms, diminishing the ability of the master biological clock to respond to the light cues that keep it in sync.

Scientists have long considered GABA to play a major role in sleep . For example, GABA-releasing neurons are present in various brain areas that are involved in the generation of SWS, such as the brainstem reticular activation system, thalamus, hypothalamus, and basal forebrain. Thus, facilitation of GABA-mediated inhibition is one possible explanation for alcohol’s sedative and SWS-promoting effects. These neurotransmitters are released by the signal-emitting neuron and generally exert their actions by interacting with certain molecules (i.e., receptors) located on the surface of the signal-receiving neuron. During REM sleep, cortical EEG readings revert to the low-voltage-mixed-frequency pattern seen during drowsy sleep. The EOG displays the bursts of rapid eye movements that give this stage its name. In fact, most major voluntary muscle groups are paralyzed, because certain nerve cells in the spinal cord (i.e., motor neurons) are not responding to nerve signals.

Related To Healthy Sleep

Your muscles loosen up, your bod’s temp drops, and your eye movements halt altogether. Brain wave activity slows even more, but your noggin will still erupt in brief bursts of electrical activity. This is the most prevalent sleep cycle during a normal night’s sleep. Insomnia is a common condition where a person has trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.

Today, we dive deeper into the connection between alcohol and sleep to discover if a harmonious relationship between the two is possible. When people get older, they naturally experience a decrease in slow-wave sleep and an increase in nighttime wakefulness. Research has found that people over 65 often awake three or more times during the night. Studies have found that alcohol consumed even six hours before bedtime can increase wakefulness during the second half of sleep, even though the alcohol consumed has already been eliminated from the body.

Since then, an extensive literature has described alcohol’s effects on the sleep of healthy, nonalcoholic people. Furthermore, people can rapidly develop tolerance to the sedative effects of alcohol. Researchers have investigated the interactive effects of alcohol with other determinants of daytime sleepiness. Such studies indicate that alcohol interacts with sleep deprivation and sleep restriction to exacerbate daytime sleepiness and alcohol-induced performance impairments.

Moreover, you’re likely to get more “deep sleep,” which is the period during which your body repairs and regenerates. If you want to enjoy a great night’s sleep, try cutting back on your alcohol consumption. However, alcohol affects everyone differently, and for some people even one drink can negatively affect sleep quality. If you drink a glass of wine before bed, you notice you fall asleep easier.

Alcohol Is Not A Sleep Aid

If you plan to crawl into bed at 10 p.m., be sure to finish that glass of wine by 7. (It takes your body about three hours to metabolize 8 ounces of wine, Dasgupta says.) Of course, the exact time may vary depending on your size, your gender and your alcohol intake. Alcohol tends to affect women more acutely, according to Carter, who suggests a four-hour window for women and men alike.

  • Poor sleep quality can also cause problems with alertness the next day.
  • This can cause them to rouse hundreds of times while sleeping.
  • Sleep disorders like insomnia can co-occur with alcohol abuse, and treating insomnia can improve a person’s sleep quality while in recovery.
  • It’s harder to wake the person as they become unresponsive to outside stimuli.

We searched MEDLINE, PSYCHINFO, ETOH, BIBLIOSLEEP and the Rutgers Alcohol Studies databases between January 1966 and August 2002. Search terms included alcohol-related disorders or alcoholism in combination with sleep, sleep initiation and maintenance disorders, or sleep apnea syndromes. We reviewed 107 relevant articles, of which 60 included quantitative measures of both alcohol use and sleep. For example, drinking in the evening can increase your likelihood of sleep talking, moving in your sleep, or even sleepwalking. Drinking at night can also cause breathing difficulties such as sleep apnea. If you just have one or two drinks, you may not notice any disruptions in your sleep, so you’ll be more likely to think alcohol is helping you sleep. If you do drink before bed, it’s important to stay hydrated — with water, not with more alcohol.

Alcohol And Sleep, The Choice Is Yours

Your brain spends more time in this stage of sleep than in other stages. Sleep and circadian rhythm disruption from alcohol also contribute to next-day tiredness, fatigue, irritability, and difficulty concentrating. Even if it doesn’t present as a full-fledged hangover, alcohol-related sleep loss negatively affects mood and performance. Circadian rhythms affect how the body responds to alcohol, depending on the timing of alcohol intake. Long-established research shows the body metabolizes alcohol differently at different times of day. Studies have shown the body is more effective at processing alcohol at certain times of the day than others. Alcohol is the most common sleep aid—at least 20 percent of American adults rely on it for help falling asleep.

Baekeland F, Lundwall L, Shanahan TJ, Kissin B. Clinical correlates of reported sleep disturbance in alcoholics. Aldrich MS. Automobile accidents in patients with sleep disorders. It’s important to stop drinking at least 4 hours before bed to prevent sleep disruption, says Dr. Iatridis.

Many people rely on alcohol’s calming effect after a rough day. They may believe it reduces their anxiety over the day’s events and helps them get to sleep. If this pattern repeats daily, a person is more likely to become dependent upon alcohol to fall asleep. The duration of these sleep stages can vary by person and by age. Throughout the night, your brain will cycle through all of the sleep stages multiple times to give you a good night’s rest.

During a later phase of the same study (Roehrs et al. 1999), the participants also had an opportunity to choose between beverages presented in color-coded cups that contained various alcohol concentrations or a placebo. The participants had previously experienced all of those beverages (i.e., they had taken them one at a time before bedtime on different nights) and were asked to choose the beverage that would best help them sleep. With this approach, the insomniacs generally chose an alcohol-containing beverage, whereas the healthy people chose the placebo-containing beverage. Several studies have assessed the effects of alcohol administration over several nights. Such studies clearly demonstrated that tolerance to alcohol’s sedative and sleep-stage effects develops within 3 nights and that the percentages of SWS and REM sleep return to basal levels after that time. Furthermore, in some studies, the discontinuation of nightly alcohol administration resulted in a REM sleep rebound–that is, an increase in REM sleep beyond basal levels . Sleep-disordered breathing may be an additional contributor to sleep complaints and sleep disruption in heavy drinkers.