Sadly, your pre-bed glass of red is a habit to break.

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A lot of people enjoy a nightcap before tucking into bed for the evening. Some believe that it helps them drift off to sleep a little more soundly, while others simply like ending the day with a glass of their favorite red. According to Dr. Carleara Weiss, Ph.D., MS, RN, Aeroflow Sleep's Sleep Science Advisor and a postdoctoral fellow in sleep and circadian rhythms, a before-bed glass of wine simply doesn't pair well with a good night's rest. Here's why.

Alcohol and Sleep

Unfortunately, even small amounts of alcohol, such as one glass of wine before bedtime, can disrupt sleep. "Ideally, people should restrict alcohol consumption to four hours before bedtime," explains Dr. Weiss. "Alcohol affects the central nervous system and has a sedative effect, leading to the thinking that it helps them sleep. The truth is, "alcohol suppresses an essential part of the sleep cycle called REM (rapid eye movement), making it shorter." And since REM holds a lot of benefits for cognitive health, missing out on this crucial sleep period can be hazardous to your wellbeing. "Alcohol also increases the times a person wakes up during the night and reduces the quality of sleep," adds Dr. Weiss. "The variation in the alcohol content in different drinks, such as wine or beer, makes a difference in the serving size, but still has detrimental effects if consumed close to bedtime."

Alcohol Content Matters

When talking about the impacts alcohol has on your sleep, Dr. Weiss says it's important to focus on the alcohol content per drink and how long it takes to be digested in our system. "First, a standard drink usually has 14 grams of pure alcohol. Now, let us focus on alcohol concentration per drink," she says. "In a beer (12 ounces), this is equivalent to five-percent alcohol. A glass of wine (five ounces) has approximately 12-percent alcohol, and distilled drinks may have up to 40-percent alcohol in one-and-a-half ounces." Our bodies can metabolize 20 milligrams per hour, which means the alcohol will be eliminated in the urine or through our hair follicles; depending on the amount consumed, however, it may stay in the bloodstream for up to 12 hours, says Dr. Weiss. Even having too much wine at lunch, without having anything to drink for the rest of the day, can still leave you with negative sleep effects come bedtime.

woman holding glass of red wine
Credit: Somkid Thongdee / EyeEm / Getty Images

Wine Before Bed

Waking up with a headache or feeling thirsty, tired, and sleepy are all signs that you had alcohol too close to bedtime, or too much during the day, resulting in impaired sleep. "Wine (and other alcoholic drinks) should not be mixed with sleep," Dr. Weiss confirms. "It may give the false impression of falling asleep faster, but it harms REM sleep and its overall quality." For better sleep results, limit your alcohol intake to a few days a week, at least four hours before bedtime, and have a small portion to avoid health consequences.

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