The Surprising Truth About Alcohol and Sleep
You know the feeling… whether it was after only one drink, or one drink too many, it seemed like you were out like a light as soon as your head hit the pillow. And you may have even witnessed how incredibly heavy a person sleeps after consuming multiple drinks.
It’s because of this that many people assume alcohol must be a fantastic sleep aid. Combined with the fact that anywhere from 10-15% of the US population suffers from some form of sleep deprivation or non-restorative sleep (sleep which doesn’t leave you feeling rested) there are actually a lot of people who regularly use alcohol to sleep at night. I even know people who use alcohol in conjunction with sleeping medications…
This article is going to examine the truth about whether alcohol really can aid in your sleep, or if it’s actually hindering your sleep.
Across the board, research has consistently found that alcohol reduces what is called sleep latency, or the transition time from wakefulness to sleep. In other words, drinking alcohol has been shown to genuinely help you fall asleep faster. This seems almost too good to be true for those individuals who take an extended period of time to fall asleep.
So far, so good.
Well, that’s the not the whole story. Because you’re about to hear what’s really going on while your sleeping with alcohol in your system.
Do you use a fan while you sleep, or make sure that the AC is running when you go to bed? It’s commonly known that our body’s prefer a cooler environment while sleeping. This is why our core temperatures drop during the various stages of sleep. Also consider that alcohol consumption will bring a decrease in core body temperature.
Do you see where this is going?
Shortly after a drink, your body temperature begins to drop as it (your body) begins metabolizing the booze. And it doesn’t matter if you’ve had one drink or several, this decrease in core temperature can jump-starts the sleep process, thereby decreasing sleep latency.
Now the bad news.
Research has also consistently shown that alcohol can negatively affect, sometimes severely, the latter half of a drinker’s night-time sleep. At some point in the middle of the night (depending on the amount that was drank), once the body has finished completely metabolizing the alcohol, it can go into what’s referred to as a “rebound effect.”
This occurs when the body, after working overtime to eliminate alcohol from the individual’s system, almost goes in the opposite direction and causes extended wakefulness or light sleeping (stage 1 sleep). And the more that was drank, the worse this rebound effect.
In other words, after a night of drinking, you may fall asleep quickly and sleep fine for a few hours, only to experience terrible sleep and long periods of wakefulness until your alarm goes off.
Ready for more bad news?
For individuals using a drink or two to help them fall asleep faster, a tolerance is built after only a few nights. At which point many people may actually start drinking even more alcohol. And it doesn’t take long before this can develop into a dependency.
Worse even, is how this cycle can actually lead to the formation of insomnia. This is when individuals struggle with any of the following for an extended period of time:
- Difficulty falling asleep (sleep latency)
- Difficulty staying asleep throughout the night (non-restorative or interrupted sleep) and
- Difficulty staying asleep until the morning (merely waking up too early).
And here are some quick facts about insomnia…
- Depending on the source, anywhere from 60-80 million Americans suffer from insomnia
- As yet, there is no medicated cure for insomnia
- The longer insomnia is experienced, the more difficult it can be to overcome
- Insomnia can lead to an increased risk of of other health ailments, such as cardiovascular issues, diabetes, obesity, daytime fatigue, and more.
We’ve learned that what initially appears to be helpful to our sleep can quickly turn into a cycle that may become difficult to break from. And any initial benefits gained are quickly lost with tolerance and dependency.
So what are we to do if we struggle to sleep? Is there any hope?
Regarding this, there is some good news. Here are three, easy recommendations to help you sleep that don’t include any alcohol consumption whatsoever.
- Focus on your breathing. Many people implement some type of breathing technique when struggling to fall asleep. The specific technique used doesn’t really matter. A popular technique is called the “5-5-7.” This is where you breath in, slowly, for a full 5 seconds. Follow this with holding your breath for another 5 seconds, and finish with breathing out for a full 7 seconds, again slowly. This actually mimics the meditative state of monks and other monastics, which has been clinically shown to ease the mind and help with sleep latency. Give it a try.
- Listen to music while you sleep. Easy listening has been shown to help with sleep latency, but also with sleep quality. Researchers found that individuals who listen to relaxing music while sleeping have more restorative sleep and less interrupted sleep during the night.
- Avoid the clock. This is probably the single most effective method I’ve used to improve my own sleep. When we constantly are checking the clock throughout the night, we are constantly aware of how long it’s taking to fall asleep. We can’t help but immediately begin to calculate how much sleep we’re losing out on. The moment I quit checking the clock, I began sleeping better and having more energy throughout the day. I found that if my brain didn’t know how much sleep I actually got, I could trick myself into having more energy throughout the day and pretty soon, I began falling asleep faster and staying asleep longer. Combine this with the previous two methods, and it won’t be long before your sleep problems can be a thing of the past.
Did you find these solutions helpful? Do you suffer from sleeplessness? Or would you like to know more information on how to improve your quality of sleep and overall health? Visit End Insomnia Now for more information.