Many people believe that alcohol helps them sleep. One survey found that 15% of people drink specifically to improve their sleep. What, however, does the research have to say on this topic. What’s the relationship between alcohol and sleep?
The Studies on Alcohol and Sleep:
One review analyzed every study ever done on alcohol and sleep. Here’s what they found:
- Alcohol helps you fall asleep.
- Alcohol causes you to wake up more frequently throughout the night.
- Alcohol increases slow wave sleep, especially during the first half of the night. The more you drink the more slow wave sleep you have. Bedwetting, sleepwalking, snoring, and poor breathing become more common during this phase. A recent study found that alpha waves are also increased during this first part of sleep, which is a pattern seen that leads to less refreshing sleep and poor daytime functioning. It’s also a pattern seen in those suffering from chronic pain.
- Finally, alcohol reduces total REM sleep and increases the time it takes to fall into REM sleep. Lack of REM sleep can impact concentration, motor skills, and memory.
Alcohol can help you fall asleep, but it significantly disrupts sleep quality. Look back and think how rested you feel in the morning after a night of drinking. So, if you’re having trouble sleeping cut back on your alcohol intake and give your body time to remove the alcohol from your body. It takes roughly an hour for your body to remove a drink from your system (depending on your weight). So if you have two drinks, try to stop 2 hours before hitting the sack.
Chan, Julia KM, et al. “The Acute Effects of Alcohol on Sleep Electroencephalogram Power Spectra in Late Adolescence.” Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research (2015).
Ebrahim, Irshaad O., et al. “Alcohol and sleep I: effects on normal sleep.”Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research 37.4 (2013): 539-549.