Does Alcohol Affect Sleep?

In March 15, 2021
Does Alcohol Affect Sleep
Does Alcohol Affect Sleep?

Does Alcohol Affect Sleep?

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, which can cause the user to relax and become very sleepy. Don’t let these symptoms of alcohol intoxication fool you — alcohol can disrupt your sleep in a tremendous way. If you are a drinker suffering from insomnia, the culprit just might be your nightcap. However, quitting that habit is often much easier said than done. Keep reading to learn more about how and why alcohol affects sleep, how to get help if it is hard to quit, and some healthy sleep habits you can start tonight.

Does Alcohol Affect Sleep?: The Facts

According to a 2018 study, sleep can be affected by alcohol no matter how much or how little you consume. 

  • Low amounts of alcohol (fewer than two servings per day for men or one serving per day for women) decreased sleep quality by 9.3%.
  • Moderate amounts of alcohol (two servings per day for men or one serving per day for women) decreased sleep quality by 24%.
  • High amounts of alcohol (more than two servings per day for men or one serving per day for women) decreased sleep quality by 39.2%.

Other facts related to how alcohol affects sleep include:

  • Consuming alcohol increases the risk of sleep apnea by 25%. 
  • Alcohol may increase movement disorders that disturb sleep. Men and women who consume two or more drinks per day had a two-to-threefold increase in periodic leg movements that fragment sleep. 
  • Alcohol may also provoke sleepwalking.
  • Alcohol consumption can induce gastritis, esophageal reflux, and polyuria that can disrupt sleep.

How Sleep Is Affected by Alcohol

As mentioned, alcohol is a depressant that can make the user feel very sleepy. This can trick the individual into thinking that alcohol is helping them sleep. However, it is helping them do the exact opposite.

A normal sleep cycle consists of four different stages: three non-rapid eye movement (NREM) stages and one rapid eye movement (REM) stage, and each cycle lasts 90-120 minutes. Alcohol disrupts the REM stage, which can lead to the following effects:

  • Shorter sleep cycle and premature awakening, which can lead to drowsiness during the day.
  • Dreaming mostly occurs in the REM cycle, which helps the brain process emotions and memories.
  • When an individual is unable to dream, emotions and concentration can be impacted.
  • During the REM stage, the skeletal muscles act as if they are paralyzed. This rest is very important and restorative for the body, and the individual will feel fatigued the next morning without it.

Common Questions Answered

  • How long does insomnia last after you stop drinking? According to the US National Library of Medicine, in an early uncontrolled study, insomnia symptoms in 56 recently abstinent alcoholic patients persisted for approximately 5 weeks.
  • How many hours before bed should you stop drinking alcohol? While drinking no alcohol is best for the body, a University of Michigan sleep expert recommends no later than 3 hours before bedtime. 
  • What does it mean when an alcoholic sleeps a lot? There could be many reasons an alcoholic is sleeping a lot. The individual may be sober enough to fall asleep and stay asleep and maybe sleeping for a long period of time to “make up” for lost sleep. This can be very disrupting to the body’s normal sleep rhythms and can make the individual feel extremely groggy and fatigued when awake.

Healthy Sleep Habits

Follow these five healthy sleep habits for an even better night’s sleep:

  • Stay active. Exercising regularly will help your body become tired and ready for sleep. However, make sure it is no later than a few hours before bed, as high levels of endorphins and adrenaline can kick in during exercise — and these will actually keep you awake.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, or nicotine in the evening. All of these things will impact your ability to get to sleep, stay asleep, and get great quality sleep.
  • Have a dedicated sleep space. Individuals who also use their bed to hang out, watch TV, work, eat, or read, are more likely to suffer from insomnia. Having this dedicated space will help your body recognize that it is time for sleep.
  • Keep your bedroom at a cool temperature. Becoming too hot while sleeping can disrupt an otherwise healthy sleep pattern, so make sure your bedroom is nice and cool so that you can cozy up to your blankets and stay asleep.
  • Set regular wake and bedtimes. Your body loves routine and rhythm — setting a regular wake and sleep time will help your body get into a great sleeping pattern and be able to expect sleep at the same times every day.

About Seasons in Malibu

If your sleep quality is affected by drinking and you are unable to slow or stop your drinking, receiving treatment will help you. Treatment at Seasons in Malibu is systemic, integrative, and client-centered. Our philosophy is grounded in the understanding that in order for the client to heal, the entire system needs the opportunity to heal along with them.

It is a priority for us that our life-changing drug and alcohol treatment be available to the people who need it. We are fully familiar with how much strength and courage it takes to pick up the phone and ask for help. Our counselors are invested in your well-being and are ready around-the-clock to guide you or a trusted friend or family member through the initial steps of overcoming drug or alcohol addiction.

With our superior team of clinicians, we are able to succinctly pinpoint those areas of focus that will give the client the most advanced opportunity for success. Our approach towards healing is collaborative, comprehensive, and committed.

For more information, visit seasonsmalibu.com