Alcohol and Sleep: Why You Should Think Twice Before Drinking and Going to Bed
Have you ever come home from work and had a few glasses of wine to wind down only to wake up the next morning feeling like you didn’t get a good night’s sleep? There is a reason why people use alcohol to relax and help them fall asleep: alcohol does actually speed up this process, but the science shows that the consequences outweigh the benefits. The truth is, although alcohol makes you think you’re getting a better sleep, it’s actually more harmful than helpful for your rest.
How does alcohol affect sleep?
Many studies looking at the direct relationship between alcohol and sleep have found that while alcohol may help you fall asleep more quickly, it significantly decreases the quality of your sleep. One or more drinks of alcohol can disrupt second sleep, defined as sleep during the second half of the night. Two or more drinks decreases total REM sleep, when dreams occur and your brain processes and body rests from events of the day. And the more alcoholic beverages consumed before bed, the more your sleep suffers.
Regardless of how many hours spent sleeping, losing REM sleep means you won’t wake up feeling well rested and ready to start your day. Instead of getting a good night’s sleep, a common side effect is drowsiness the next day. Additionally, the negative effects of alcohol before bed are cumulative: multiple nights in a row of drinking before bed will have a greater effect on your body and could also increase the risk of alcohol dependence.
What you can do to get a good night’s rest
Even though alcohol makes you sleepy, it is far from beneficial for your sleep. To actually improve sleep, experts suggest limiting caffeine, alcohol and nicotine a few hours before going to bed. Next time you’re debating having your favorite alcoholic beverage to relax at home or on your next flight, think twice if you are hoping to get some quality sleep.
Nina is an Intern at Center on Addiction