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Alcohol & Sleep – Fact vs. Fiction


If you enjoy a glass of red or a cold beer at night, you’re not alone. According to a Zogby America study, almost 30% of American adults consume alcohol twice a week or more. What’s more, over a quarter of insomniacs regularly use alcohol to get to sleep.

There’s a lot of conjecture over alcohol use and it’s effect on sleep, so this post will try and separate some of the facts from fiction.

Moderate – Heavy Alcohol Use

Heavy Alcohol

Drinking more than a few standard drinks before bedtime can severely disrupt the body’s ability to maintain a proper sleep state. While under the influence, you may get to sleep quicker but the quality of sleep is reduced. The amount of Glutamic acid released in the brain during sleep is lessened, which is an important amino acid responsible for memory and learning.

Moderate alcohol use also disrupts our “sleep architecture”, or the patterns of sleep that we naturally enter during a good nap. This causes an imbalance that can leave us feeling groggy after waking, instead of refreshed and alert.

Although you may feel like drinking a lot of alcohol is helping you sleep, this is more likely due to alcohol’s sedative effect rather than any good quality sleep.

Light Alcohol Use

light alcohol

On the other hand, a single glass of beer or wine before bedtime can actually promote sleep by increasing the total amount of time asleep and reducing interruptions during the night. However, people suffering sleep apnea and snoring should stay away from alcohol before sleep, as it adversely affects the throat causing mild swelling.

Of course, your experience will depend on how your body reacts to alcohol. For example, experienced drinkers may find that a drink before bed will stimulate their senses, making it difficult to get to sleep, while inexperienced drinkers might become more sedated.

If you are using alcohol strictly to get to sleep, be aware that it is most likely causing a lower quality of sleep, and it’s worth talking to a doctor about more healthy alternatives.

How Alcohol Affects Sleep

What has your experience been with alcohol and sleep? Let me know by leaving a comment below!

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