The Effects of Alcohol on Sleep
Sleep can be difficult to achieve on occasion for anyone; however, there are some who have difficulty falling asleep every night. For some of these people, they may resort to alcohol, since it can act like a sedative to help them go to sleep. The problem is that having an alcohol induced sleep is actually not beneficial, and if done over a long period of time can cause other health issues.
In fact, drinking alcohol at any time three hours or less before bed can lead to both early waking disruptions in the sleep cycle on the whole. The problem lies in the fact that alcohol will increase your deep sleep cycle, but incrementally decrease your REM cycle. You need both in balanced doses to get a healthy sleep.
One of the most common sleep disorders to occur as a direct result of using alcohol as a sleep aid is sleep apnea, which is destructive to heart health over a long period of time. Since drinking alcohol narrows the air passages it makes it harder to breathe causing you to gasp for the blocked air. As a result, you have disturbed sleep cycle. Since your airway passage is partially obstructed, your heart has to work harder to get the oxygen it needs, which then can result in health problems.
Drinking alcohol even an hour before bed can cause sleep disturbances, as mentioned earlier, with the increased deep sleep and decreased REM sleep that results in a physiological state known as “REM rebound”. What happens is after you fall asleep your body starts adjusting to the alcohol running through your blood stream. Then, by the time you are on your second sleep cycle your body has already metabolized (eliminated) the alcohol that was in your system. At this point, it will then try to get your metabolism back to normal levels.This is where REM rebound occurs. As your body is trying to return to normal levels your body will actually over-compensate and change its course in the opposite direction resulting in sleep disturbance. When rebound and its associated sleep disturbance occur, you will not feel rested the next day; instead you will feel rather foggy.
It is apparent that alcohol has very negative effects on your sleep and on your health. Alcohol may seem to be a good sleep aide, however there are several other alternatives to alcohol that are healthier and more effective in helping you get some shut eye. One great way, which I love, is reading a book in bed with a book light. It calms my mind by putting me in a different place and makes me incredibly sleepy. Also, you should avoid caffeine, dairy products and smoking before bedtime. Lastly, it may even be associated with the mattress you are sleeping on. Switching to a memory foam mattress will actually help improve your body’s blood circulation and alleviate the pressure points associated with a traditional mattress so you get a more restful sleep.However, even if you do have a memory foam mattress you may not be able to fully enjoy it if you are not practicing healthy sleep habits.