Can Alcohol Help You Sleep Better?

Itís not uncommon to enjoy a beer or glass of wine at the end of a long day of work. Many people take their drinks with friends or alone at home as they unwind and ready themselves for bed. And these days, itís hard not to enjoy the variety of craft beers as well as cocktails available on the market.

Aside from the variety of beverages and social quality of drinking, alcohol has long been thought of as a de-stressor and sleep aid. Have one drink and drift off to sleep. And while alcohol does help you get to sleep faster and deeper in the first half of the night, youíll be surprised to learn that alcohol inhibits deeper sleep during the second half of the night.

The Sleep Stages

Sleep is an important part of healthy living. Itís common knowledge now that too little sleep can lead to an overactive and overstressed body. You need sleep to settle and calm the nervous system and reset your internal clocks. This reset is crucial to your body performing at optimal levels. Often this overstressed state causes some to have a harder time falling asleep, which is why they reach for a glass of wine or a bottle of beer.

There are four main stages of sleepÖ

Stage one: In this stage, you enter a light sleep where your body begins to doze off and all your bodily process slow down. Your eye movements slow down and your brain produces alpha and theta waves. Itís a relatively short stage of sleep, only lasting about seven minutes. You can be easily woken up at this point.

Stage two: By now itís a little harder to wake you up, although itís still a lighter stage of sleep. Youíll spend most of your sleeping time in this stage. For naps, youíd want to wake up after this stage. And by now your brain creates waves known as sleep spindles.

Stage three and four: Stage three is the beginning of deep sleep. Youíll spend about a quarter of your sleep time in this stage. Youíre much less likely to respond to environmental stimuli. And often this stage blends with the fourth stage. Your brain produces delta waves as you dive deeper into restorative sleep. This is the stage in which your body restores muscles, boosts your immune system, stimulates growth and creates energy.

Rapid Eye Movement (REM): About 90 minutes into your sleep cycle, youíll enter the REM phase of sleep, and the average adult experiences five to six cycles of REM in one night. This is the dreaming state. Your brain waves and body are active. You might even jerk yourself awake. REM plays an important role in memory consolidation.

Alcohol’s Impact

Everyone experiences these stages of sleep when sleep goes undisturbed. But when you throw alcohol in the mix, you get a whole other experience. As mentioned above, alcohol does help you get to sleep faster. That means entering the first stage of sleep right away. Studies show that you get to sleep faster and deeper in the first half of the night, while your body is still under the effects of alcohol.

But eventually, your body will begin to process the alcohol out of your system. At which point, you become susceptible to little noises and sounds in your environment. And according to one study, alcohol fragments your REM sleep. The REM stage could be longer or shorter than normal. And this fragmentation causes you to teeter between wakefulness and sleep, which inhibits the restorative third stage.

So itís time to dispel the pervasive belief that a drink before bed relieves stress and aids in sleep. Ultimately, alcohol impairs quality sleep states and leaves your body feeling unrested and overtired the next day. When you go for your next beverage take into consideration the time of day and think twice before drinking before bed.

Related:
The Surprising Link Between Alcohol and Magnesium Deficiency
How to Reduce the Alcohol in Wine Sauce
Over 60? A Little Booze May Help Your Memory

Photo Credit: Unsplash

33 comments

Freya H
Freya H1 months ago

From personal experience, no. If I have too much too close to bed, I may get to sleep more quickly, but once I wake up I have a hard time getting back to sleep. Everything in moderation.

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federico b

Grazie delle informazioni.

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Winn A
Winn Adams1 months ago

Noooooooooo it doesn't for me.

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Danuta Watola
Danuta W1 months ago

Thanks for sharing

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Angela K
Angela K1 months ago

noted

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Margie F
Margie F1 months ago

NO

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Kay M
Kay M1 months ago

Good evening and thank you for this article -good information-we can learn a lot from it- sincerely KAY M.

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Steve McCrea
Steve McCrea1 months ago

I find that a very small amount of alcohol (maybe 1-2 ounces of beer) does indeed help me sleep better without the side effect described.

The article also makes me wonder what happens when people take Xanax or other sleep drugs which have similar effects to alcohol. I would bet that these drugs have similar disruptions to the system.

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Peggy B
Peggy B1 months ago

Good to know.

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Muff-Anne York-Haley

Thanks.

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