The Truth about Alcohol & Sleep

You’ve had a long and stressful day at work. A drink or to will help you sleep, won’t it?

Many of us use alcohol – known to be a powerful sleep inducer – to help us fall asleep. Alcohol may help you drift off, but even just a few drinks can affect the quality of your sleep. And if you are drinking more regularly, you may find yourself waking up the next day feeling like you had no sleep at all.

Drinking disrupts your circadian rhythms (sleep cycle). Alcohol blocks you from entering normal deep sleep & light sleep stages your mind is meant to pass through at night. Instead, you spend more time than usual in the less restful, Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage of sleep. This can leave you feeling tired the next day no matter how long your lie in is. Drinking alcohol also stops you from storing memories effectively whilst you’re asleep – this is a key process that happens when you’re asleep, where shorter term memories in the hippocampus are stored as long-term memories spaced out around different areas around the brain.

Alcohol is also a diuretic – it makes you pee. Having to get up in the night to drag yourself to the toilet, of course, disrupts your sleep.  

Alcohol is a potent anxiolytic which means it relaxes you. And fast. So if you were anxious about something then you’ll probably rapidly fall asleep.  Its quick, its easy and it works within minutes. It also makes you feel more confident as its a disinhibitor. However, the next day, you’ll have rebound worry – worry comes back with a vengeance as the brain has to re-adjust to functioning without alcohol. This is because alcohol causes an imbalance between brain chemicals acetyl choline and GABA which need to be rebalanced.

So, if the cost on your liver isn’t enough to reduce your alcohol intake. the lack of rest for your mind should be. Even if it’s just drinking every other day, it all helps.



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