Does Alcohol Help or Harm Sleep?
This blog post was created by our Sleep Coach Kelly Murray.
Let’s have a look at why alcohol not only impairs you, but also impairs your sleep.
Now that the world is opening up again, if you notice that you’re socializing more and drinking more, and your sleep has taken a hit and you’re not getting the rest you need to feel your best — well, there’s no coincidence there. Alcohol and sleep do not make good bed partners and there are a few reasons for that. Here’s why that is.
Alcohol and Sleep don’t make a good match
1. Alcohol does make you feel sleepy. That’s because it’s a sedative and it also spikes your adenosine levels. Adenosine is a chemical the body produces while awake that connects to neurons in the brain and inhibits the brain function. It’s what makes us feel tired. After drinking, our adenosine levels rise rapidly, but then experience a rebound effect. After a night of drinking, our adenosine levels tank around the second half of the night when we’re supposed to be in REM sleep, which is the most restorative sleep. Why does this happen at this time? Well, we sleep in cycles where we go from light to deep sleep, and in between these cycles, we experience a little wake up. Due to the lack of adenosine in our system, when we have our little wake ups in between cycles, we’re not going to feel as tired and we’re going to have a hard time falling back to sleep.
2. Alcohol also inhibits the production of melatonin. We want to avoid this at all costs! Melatonin, as I’m sure you remember from high school biology class, is the sleepy hormone. We want our melatonin levels to be as high as possible at night. When we drink alcohol, however, it can reduce melatonin production by 20%. That’s even if one drinks in moderation.
3. Alcohol prevents us from entering REM sleep. Remember, REM is the most restorative sleep. REM is what you need to feel mentally clear the next day. If you’re not getting good REM sleep, you’re going to wake up feeling really groggy. REM sleep is when our brain takes the information from our short-term memory and moves it into our long-term memory. It allows for clearing the brain of toxins, and a process called neuroplasticity, which allows us to learn, occurs as well in REM Sleep. In short, REM sleep is really important for your productivity.
Now that I’ve convinced you that drinking and sleep do not go hand in hand, I’m going to give you some alternatives:
- I don’t expect you to be a tea teller. Yes, tea is a good alternative and there are tons of Sleepy time teas out there that taste really good and help you to relax, but you don’t have to stick to tea! You can drink non-alcoholic alternatives such as a tasty mocktail. I’m sure if you go to a restaurant or bar in your area, the bartender can whip up a nice tasty virgin cocktail for you.
- There are nonalcoholic beers and wines and I know you’ve probably tried it in the past but I feel that nowadays with more and more people becoming sober-curious, there are tastier alternatives out there.
- Last but not least you don’t have to stop drinking altogether to get a good night's sleep. You just need to do it in moderation and do it early in the evening. Think Happy Hour instead of Night Cap. Give your body one hour to clear each unit of alcohol you consume before you go to bed. For example, if you drink two glasses of wine and you typically go to bed at 11:00 PM, you should aim to stop drinking by 9:00 PM. Of course, be sure to drink lots of water because, as I’m sure you know, alcohol can dehydrate you, and dehydration can lead to fragmented sleep.
So the bottom line is, if you’re trying to improve your sleep, it’s best that you don’t drink alcohol, or if you do, do it very infrequently, do it early, and do it in moderation.
If you’ve been working really hard to get your sleep under control and no matter what you do, you’re still having problems, I would love to hear from you and talk about working one-on-one. You can schedule a free 30-minute discovery call with me through the Sleep Like A Boss Team page.