Alcohol disrupts dream-filled sleep, and this mostly occurs in the second half of the night. Relying on alcohol to fall asleep will eventually cause and aggravate sleeping problems. This WellnessKeen article has more…
“The first thing in the human personality that dissolves in alcohol is dignity.” – Unknown
Alcohol has sedative properties, which is why, many use it as a sleep inducer. Insomniacs, especially, tend to depend on alcohol to fall asleep quickly. Dependency on alcohol seems to be the latest trend. The habit of drinking before hitting the sack is on the rise to curb sleep difficulties. But, from a health standpoint, is it good to drink alcohol to induce sleep? Does the sleep-inducing effect of alcohol last throughout the night? If alcohol promotes sleep, why is it referred to as a sleep disruptor?
Drinking Alcohol Affects Sleep Quality
There is no doubt that you fall asleep faster after consuming alcohol. With alcohol, you doze off quickly, but at what cost? Research has proven that alcohol can wreak havoc in your REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, an important stage of sleep when you dream, and is believed to improve memory and concentration.
The scientific journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, has recently published a report that evaluated around 27 studies regarding the impact of alcohol on sleep. In all, over 500 people participated, who consumed alcohol in variable amounts at night, and were advised to come to a sleep lab, where they snoozed off. Researchers thoroughly examined the effects of alcohol on the brain waves of each of the participants. They concluded that alcohol intake in small amounts promotes sleep in the first half of the night, and does not affect the REM sleep. However, too much alcohol causes REM sleep deprivation in the later period of the night. The participants with a high alcohol intake found it difficult to get any shut eye, and woke up frequently in the second half of the night. As the alcohol level in the blood went down, lack of sleep dominated the latter part of the night.
Alcohol Disrupts REM Sleep
As aforementioned, recent review of studies shows that alcohol’s sleep-inducing effect does not last long, and disruptive sleep patterns are common in the second half of the night. Sleep quality and efficiency reduces dramatically in the latter half of the night, and is often marked by increased nocturnal awakenings. All these are signs of alcohol withdrawal, which causes difficulty in sleeping. As the alcohol content in the blood declines, its sedative effect lessens or disappears, leading to restless or discontinuous sleep as the night progresses. With poor REM sleep quality, you are likely to feel lethargic throughout the next day.
Alcohol decreases the amount of time to induce sleep, but at the same time, it reduces REM sleep. Despite consuming alcohol in moderation before going to bed, you are likely to disturb your REM sleep cycles. For instance, during the 8 hours of sleep at night, a person goes through 6 to 7 REM sleep cycles, which makes one feel more satisfying after getting up in the morning. However, with regular alcohol intake at night, your REM sleep cycles drastically fall down to 1 or 2. So, the alcohol that induced deep-sleep, eventually becomes a sleep-disruptor in the second half of the night. On the whole, the quality of sleep does not improve over a span of 7 to 8 hours.
Also, alcohol-induced deep-sleep causes loud snoring, thereby, making you susceptible to sleep apnea, in which the breathing activity temporarily stops. All in all, it is necessary to avoid heavy alcohol consumption at night, as it affects the overall quality of sleep. Using it as a sleeping aid is definitely not the proper way to fall asleep, and is sure to cause sleep disorders in the long run.
Disclaimer: This WellnessKeen article is for informative purposes only, and should not be replaced for the advice of a medical professional.