These Are the Effects Alcohol Can Have on Your Sleep Patterns
Plus, the science behind how it induces certain activity in the brain.
If you've ever had that "just one more glass" moment at your friend's house party or while on a date, you may have considered how it might affect your sleep at the end of the night. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant and sedative that may initially help you fall asleep. However, once the alcohol is metabolized by the liver, it disrupts the REM stage of sleep and cause you to awaken in the middle of the night.
"With continued consumption, alcohol's initial sleep-inducing effects decrease, while its sleep disturbance effects increase," advises Andrea Nesteby, a physician assistant at the Anchorage Sleep Center in Anchorage, Alaska. How does this occur, exactly? We asked Nesteby to explain the science of how drinking affects our quality of sleep.
Some of the ways that sleep disturbance can occur due to frequent alcohol consumption includes decreasing the effects of the hypoglossal nerve, which causes the tongue to relax and obstruct the airway leading to increased snoring and exacerbation of sleep apnea (pauses in breathing during sleep). For this reason, alcohol is not recommended as a sleep aid and often creates insomnia, increased awakenings, and overall poor sleep quality.
You may wonder how you can enjoy alcohol responsibly and still enjoy a full night's sleep uninterrupted. According to Nesteby, adults of drinking age should limit alcohol consumption to drinking in moderation, which factors out to two drinks or less in a day for men and one drink or less in a day for women. "To decrease the adverse side effects of alcohol on sleep, an individual should stop drinking alcohol at least four hours before bedtime," advises Nesteby.