Alcohol and Sleep Disorders
If you drink alcohol regularly, you might notice that you have trouble falling asleep at night. Or maybe you wake up feeling groggy and tired during the day. These may be signs of having a sleep disorder.
You might think that drinking alcohol helps you fall asleep faster, but this isn’t true. In fact, it can cause problems instead.
Alcohol use disorders have been linked to sleep disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnea. It also affects the quality of sleep.1
Here is an overview of how alcohol affects your sleep.
Alcohol Addiction’s Role in Sleep Disorders
There are many ways in which alcohol can affect deep sleep.2
- First, alcohol affects the production of melatonin, a hormone that is naturally produced during darkness. When melatonin levels go down, it causes us to wake up earlier than normal. Alcohol reduces melatonin’s effectiveness and makes it harder to sleep when taken too close to bed-time.
- Second, alcohol raises blood pressure and heart rate, which makes it more difficult for the body to begin and maintain sleep cycles.
- Third, alcohol suppresses brain activity in areas that regulate REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep cycles. REM cycles are responsible for the relaxation of muscles during sleep. When the REM cycle is compromised, the body does not have a chance to fully rest.
These factors culminate into a compromised sleep pattern, which then manifest as a sleep disorder. While some may mistake a beer or a glass of wine for a sleep aid, the effects of alcohol use disorder clearly show that the results have the exact opposite of the intended effect.
What does Normal Sleep Look Like?
For each person, the amount of time it takes to fall asleep varies. Some people need only a few minutes before they feel sleepy enough to drift off into deep sleep, while other people need more than 30 minutes.
The efficacy of one’s sleep is influenced by a number of factors, including age, gender, stress level, current sleep disorders, and usage of other substances. On average, a healthy adult should be able to get at least 6 hours of sleep each night.
Ways to Get Better Sleep Without Alcohol
There are other ways to treat insomnia or other sleep disorders besides using drugs and alcohol. Some natural remedies include:
• Exercise – exercise releases endorphins into your system which reduces stress and improves moods. Try walking around the block or going jogging instead of sitting down watching TV.
• Relaxation techniques – meditation, yoga, deep breathing exercises
• Avoid caffeine-rich foods such as coffee, tea, chocolate, cola beverages, etc. Caffeine stimulates nervous activity and keeps you alert.
• Get plenty of restful sleep every night. Make sure you avoid activities right before bedtime. Don’t watch television or read books just before sleeping. Turn off electronic devices about 30 minutes before bedtime.
• Use relaxation tapes or music to calm your mind.
• Take warm baths or showers before bedtime. A hot bath or shower relieves tension and calms nerves.
• Eat healthy meals rich in protein and fiber. Protein builds strong muscles while fiber fills you up without adding calories.
• Drink lots of water. Water flushes toxins out of your system. Drinking enough water prevents dehydration and constipation. Dehydration leads to fatigue and poor concentration. Constipation results in stomach cramps and bloating. Both conditions affect your ability to sleep well.
• Reduce sugar intake. Sugar raises insulin levels which disrupts normal metabolism. High insulin levels lead to low energy levels. Low energy levels prevent you from getting quality sleep.
• Limit alcohol consumption. Alcohol lowers inhibitions and disturbs sleep patterns.
• Do not smoke cigarettes. Smoking interferes with oxygen flow through the lungs causing shortness of breath. Shortness of breath decreases mental clarity and slows reaction times. Cigarette smoking also damages lung tissue leading to chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Chronic bronchitis causes coughing fits that disturb sleep. Emphysema makes it hard to breathe during sleep.
• If you suffer from depression or anxiety disorders, talk to a doctor about treatment options. Depression affects brain chemistry making it difficult to fall asleep. It also increases anxiety and irritability. Talk to your doctor about counseling, therapy, or medications.
And finally, If you or a loved one need help ceases alcohol use, contact us or call us at 1(800)CRAVING to get started. Our 10-day Treatment Program has been shown to be many times more effective than other conventional treatment methods. You don’t have to wait to get the help you need, our intake team is ready to help you get started.
- Michael D. Stein MD & Peter D. Friedmann MD, MPH (2006) Disturbed Sleep and Its Relationship to Alcohol Use, Substance Abuse, 26:1, 1-13, DOI: 10.1300/J465v26n01_01
- Britton, A., Hardy, R., Kuh, D. et al. Twenty-year trajectories of alcohol consumption during midlife and atherosclerotic thickening in early old age: findings from two British population cohort studies. BMC Med 14, 111 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12916-016-0656-9