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Can Drinking Alcohol Help You Sleep?
It is not uncommon to hear that alcohol can help you fall asleep at night, but what about the quality of sleep you get after a couple of these drinks? So does alcohol help you sleep? To answer this question, it is important to understand the context of our sleeping selves.
The Sleep Cycles: a complicated, yet important, system
Humans go through about five to six cycles of five stages of sleep per night. Our first few cycles are more geared towards deep, slow-wave-sleep stages (Non-Rapid Eye Movement, or NREM), with the latter cycles including more active REM sleep.
Both of these types of stages are extremely important in our day-to-day functionality as our waking selves.
While having a few craft high-ABV beers or small glasses of wine is a fast and easy way to get some shut-eye quickly, it also has the potential to disturb these sleep cycles and stages.
Why Booze Before Bed May Not Be the Best Idea
With some drinks before bed, we tend to stay more in the NREM sleep stage, where sleepwalking, sleep talking, or even sleep eating happens.
Alcohol serves as a CNS (Central Nervous System) depressant, meaning that it slows brain activity and impedes muscle coordination and thought. Those muscles oftentimes include the ones that are used in breathing. The throat, soft palate, and tongue, leading to blocked airways, and causing the body to make some unpleasant snoring noises.
3. Get Ready to Get Sweaty
Alcohol has been shown to cause night sweats by heightening heart rate and dilating blood vessels. This causes excessive perspiration – meaning an unpleasant (and damp) morning surprise.
4. Frequent Bathroom Trips
Having a large amount of liquid (i.e. beer, wine, or liquor) in your system in combination with your body getting rid of more water, due to alcohol’s diuretic properties means you have the perfect recipe for getting up multiple times in the night to use the bathroom.
At its base level, having to pee several times during the night can be extremely annoying. No to mention the disruptiveness in your sleep can make you feel like you hardly got any at all in the first place.
5. Broken Circadian Rhythms
Melatonin is a hormone that is heavily involved in our body’s sleep-wake cycles. When this hormone is produced, the body knows it’s time to go to sleep.
However, a National Institute of Health study showed that a moderate dose of alcohol before going to sleep can decrease the body’s normal pre-bed melatonin production by almost 20%. This means that the body’s internal clock starts to go a little crazy, and throws off the normal times when of when you should feel tired or awake.
6. You Could Die
When we aren’t getting enough sleep, we oftentimes can’t help but to look for substances to help us out. Although alcohol and prescription drugs can be fine on their own when used in moderation and control, the combination of the two can turn deadly when used before bed, as two CNS depressants in the body working at the same time is extremely dangerous.
The rate at which we build a tolerance to alcohol is truly shocking; within 3-7 days of regular drinking, our bodies begin to adapt to the intoxicating effects of alcohol and are better at metabolizing it at a quicker rate.
When alcohol becomes a sleep aid, more and more of the substance becomes necessary for the body to feel the effects. Meaning next time you drink, you’ll want a little bit more, and more, and more…
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Implications – Does Alcohol Help You Sleep?
So where do we stand after all of this?
For alcoholics that need a drink before bed, it’s yet another straw on the camel’s back for getting help. It sucks but drinking affects every part of your life in cases of excess.
Will knocking back some beers before bed kill you? In all but extreme cases, maybe not right away.
Does Alcohol Help You Sleep?
Is it an effective long-term sleep aid? Absolutely not.
Featured article from the sleep experts: the Mattress Advisor – Does Drinking Alcohol Before Bed Help You Sleep?