The Huffington Post shared the results of a review of 20 studies that was conducted in April of 2013. By analyzing data from 500 volunteers who drank in the name of science and then slept in sleep lab for brainwave recordings, researchers learned the why alcohol is so disruptive to shut-eye.
Too much alcohol interrupts REM sleep, which is important for memory and concentration. As alcohol wears off during the second part of the night, sleep is disrupted, often times causing people to wake up. Sweating, feeling anxious, and nightmares are all common when alcohol and sleep interact. Other things you should know before you decide a nightcap is the way to go are:
Frequent trips to the bathroom are a consequence: Alcohol is a powerful diuretic; those extra urges to go the bathroom aren’t all in your mind. And keep in mind that an effort to soak up alcohol with fried foods and prevent a hangover, doesn’t work. It just leads to acid reflux and other sleep problems.
Alcohol makes current sleep problems worse: Breathing-related sleep issues, such as sleep apnea, are especially affected. People with sleep apnea stop breathing for short periods of time during sleep when their airway is blocked. Alcohol decreases muscle tone in the upper airway, making airways especially collapsible, leading to worsened snoring and even more potentially dangerous health risks.
For women, drinking is especially disruptive: In a 2011 study, researchers had participants drink until everyone was equally intoxicated (drinks were adjusted for gender and weight, while intoxication was measured by breath alcohol content). Female participants stayed awake longer, woke up more times during the night and overall slept less, compared to men. Women metabolize alcohol more quickly, which means the sedative effects of alcohol faded quickly, causing them to arrive at the second, fragmented part of sleep faster.
Alcohol reacts badly with sleep aids, both prescription and natural: The warning labels on prescription and over-the-counter sleep medications are there for a reason. It is possible for a person to stop breathing during the night if they mix alcohol with sleep medications. Natural sleep aids such as melatonin, don’t combine well either with alcohol, as the sedative effects of each will be increased by each other.
What we eat and drink throughout the day does have a huge impact on sleep, especially the closer we get to bedtime, be careful what you’re consuming!