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How Alcohol Affects Sleep: The Science and Solutions

How Alcohol Affects Sleep: The Science and Solutions

While alcohol may seem like a sleep aid, it can have detrimental effects on sleep.

While alcohol may seem like a sleep aid, it can have detrimental effects on sleep. Alcohol interrupts the most restful part of the sleep cycle and can cause issues with getting a good night of rest.

Falling Asleep

Alcohol can make you sleepy. That’s because it depresses the central nervous system. While alcohol can help healthy people to fall asleep quicker because it makes you drowsy, alcohol is not a viable solution as a sleep aid. Over time, you also develop a tolerance to the sedating effects of the alcohol. 

Restful Sleep

Alcohol interferes with the restorative part of the sleep cycle,  called rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. And the more you drink before bed, the more significant the impact. Alcohol also increases the likelihood of sleepwalking, sleep talking, and having problems with memory. In addition, alcohol can suppress breathing. This can  cause or exacerbate the onset of Sleep Apnea. Sleep Apnea is a dangerous sleep disorder with periodic pauses in breathing throughout the night. This results in sleep that is not restful because the body wakes up without enough oxygen. Untreated Sleep Apnea also increases the chance of death.

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Long-term Sleep Issues

Long-term sleep issues are sometimes referred to as insomnia. Insomnia is a common sleep disorder which causes difficulty in going to and maintaining sleep. Insomnia results in daytime sleepiness and fatigue. 

Alcohol reduces REM sleep and interrupts sleep quality, resulting in the symptoms associated with insomnia. This can result in self-medicating with stimulants during the day and alcohol at night, causing an extremely vicious and dangerous cycle.

If you’re having trouble with sleep, your Confidant provider can help. There are other tactics you might also want to try on your own.

Here are a few things that can help improve your sleep quality:

  • Regularly exercise during the early or mid-part of your day, but no later than a few hours before bed.
  • Avoid stimulants like caffeine, alcohol, energy drinks, or nicotine in the evening.
  • Do not watch TV in bed, reserve it for relaxation and sleeping.
  • Keep the room a little cooler, this will help promote better sleep.
  • Plan standard bed and wake times and stick to them.
This article has been medically reviewed by
Erin Hillers
Erin Hillers
Erin Hillers
Nurse Practitioner

Erin is a Nurse Practitioner with 8 years of experience in midwifery and women's health. She has spent the past 5 years specializing in the treatment of opioid and alcohol use disorders.

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