A night out with friends? A cosy night in? A good and hearty meal? Most people enjoy a glass of alcohol or two every now and then but when sleep is significantly affected by alcohol consumption, it looks like it’s time to kiss that glass of wine goodbye.
Everyone’s been led to believe that alcohol is actually sleep’s companion helping you ease yourself to some much needed ZZZs. We believe it so much so that it is considered as one of the most common sleeping aids ever used. Well, this belief is not a complete fallacy.
Drinking alcohol does help us fall asleep faster through the increase of a sleep-inducing chemical named adenosine. However, the more likely scenario is that we mistake falling asleep faster with passing out which stems more from the sedative properties of alcohol.
Drinking Alcohol Leads to a Shortened Rem Sleep.
When we sleep, we go through multiple cycles of five sleep phases. In the first half of our slumber, the rapid eye movement (REM) phase is greatly shortened which is considered problematic because it is the most restorative. This lessened REM sleep can lead to fatigue, short-term focus, learning difficulties, and memory problems the morning after.
As if that sounds like a treat, the second half of our sleep is when it truly takes effect. Once our body is done metabolising the alcohol, its sedative qualities disappear leaving us with many disturbances in our sleep.
On the surface level, these disruptions can be in the form of frequent trips to the bathroom or worsening existing breathing problems. This so-called rebound effect shifts our deep sleep to a shallower one making us more prone to waking up. Some of which we don’t even remember but regardless, affects the depth and quality of our sleep. These micro-awakenings, in turn, disrupt the sleep phases and this wonderful cycle of rest deprivation continues.
We’re Not Telling You to Stop Drinking, Though.
To help lessen the sleep disturbances, it is recommended that you don’t drink too close to your bedtime. Intaking alcohol during the early to middle hours of the evening may be best because research shows that these are the best times for our bodies to metabolise alcohol effectively.
Another way to increase sleep quality is to lessen alcohol quantity. Even a few glasses on a daily basis can bring changes to your sleeping patterns, what more for heavy drinking! Consuming alcohol two to three times a week is considered ideal because it gives us ample time to relax and have fun. At the same time, it is just the right amount to not affect our sleep.
So next time someone invites you for a drink, you might want to think it through. What’s a big sleep disturbance for a little more shot of tequila, right?