What you need to know:
Sleep is vital for maintaining good mental and physical health, as well as a healthy brain. Unfortunately, alcohol, if not consumed in moderation, can make it challenging to have quality sleep if you do not consume it in moderation.
Drinking too much will cause you to wake up feeling tired and groggy even though you might have had enough hours of sleep for the night.
It is Friday night and you are out with friends. You order your favourite drink, take a sip or two, and things are going great. Until you wake up the following morning and your head is pounding, your mouth feels like cotton wool, and all you want to do is crawl back into bed for another hour or two of sleep.
Alcohol can have severe effects on your ability to get quality rest at night. This guide will show you how alcohol affects sleep, and steps to ensure you live your best life.
Effects of alcohol on sleep
The effects of a nightcap on sleep are not well-known, but the consensus among experts is that alcohol affects REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. Alcohol may cause some people to wake up during the night, and have trouble going back to sleep because it disrupts the natural progression from light to heavy stages of sleep. The disruption can lead to an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, which will make you feel more alert when you wake up, even though your muscles might be fatigued from a lack of deep restorative sleep.
Additionally, alcohol is a diuretic, which means it can cause you to wake up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. This interrupts your sleep pattern even more than waking up because you are dehydrated.
Effects of alcohol on the brain
Alcohol is a depressant which means it slows down the activity in your brain. Unfortunately, this affects parts of the body that control vital functions like breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. Short-term effects of alcohol on the brain include seizure, confusion, reduced inhibitions, and poor concentration.
Long-term effects of alcohol on the brain include memory loss, increased risks of dementia, depression, and long-lasting damage to nerve cells in parts of the brain responsible for learning new information.
The way you drink can influence how alcohol affects your brain
Here are some factors:
- What type and quantity of beverages an individual drink has
- The frequency of drinking alcohol
- Age at first exposure to alcoholic drinks. In children, there is evidence that prenatal alcohol consumption (and family history) may be connected to potential problems like alcoholism.
Tips to prevent sleep-related problems with alcohol
- If you are planning to drink even just one glass of wine at dinner, start decreasing your caffeine intake earlier in the day so it does not affect your ability to get rest that night. Caffeine and alcohol are both diuretics, posing a dehydration risk.
- Drink a glass of water before going to sleep. If you wake up at night feeling thirsty, down a glass or two of water depending on how much alcohol you consumed that evening. Continue taking water, if necessary, throughout the next day until your thirst is quenched. Your body might be telling you it is dehydrated even if it does not feel like you are.
- Avoid taking alcohol right before bedtime.
- Take water in between drinks so that you do not become too intoxicated. Also, avoid alcohol on an empty stomach because it will enter your bloodstream faster.
- If you are going to drink, do so in moderation.