Have you heard that having a drink before going to bed will improve sleep quality? Alcohol has an attraction that many of us cannot resist. Different types of alcoholic beverages will influence different type of moods—Beer, Wine, Cocktails all have their specific food pairings, settings etc. The drink before bed usually makes people feel lighter and relaxed. But, will going to sleep in this state guarantee a good night’s rest? What is the actual connection between having a drink and going to sleep?
Will having a drink help improve sleep quality?
It’s a known fact that alcohol can help us relax. In the study “Sleep, Sleepiness, and Alcohol Use”, the researchers found that by administering 0.16 to 1.0 grams of alcohol per kilogram of body weight to subjects 30 to 60 minutes prior to sleep allowed the subjects to fall asleep much faster than subjects not introduced to alcohol.
But does this data really mean that drinking will help with sleep?
Falling asleep faster ≠ Better sleep quality! Alcohol will affect the sleep cycle
Quality of sleep is dependent on the completeness of the sleep cycle! An adult sleeps about 6-8 hours a night on average. During a full night’s sleep, we will also pass through about 4-5 sleep cycles (each cycle lasts about 90 minutes). Each cycle will also consist of a NREM (Non Rapid Eye Movement) and REM (Rapid Eye Movement) portions. Moreover, the NREM portion further consists of light sleep and deep sleep states.
- NREM (Non-Rapid Eye Movement): When we first start to feel sleepy, start to doze-off and our mind is not able to focus. This is the light-sleep state. For those that suffer from insomnia, this state will last much longer before entering into sleep. During deep-sleep is when the body repairs itself and is the most important part of sleep. In deep-sleep, the breath will become slow and regular and we will not be easily awoken. After a time in deep-sleep state, we will return to a light-sleep state but again will not be easily awoken as the cycle will enter into the REM portion of the sleep cycle. (one complete sleep cycle consists of : light-sleep → deep-sleep → light-sleep → REM)
- REM (Rapid Eye Movement): As the name implies, the eyes will make very rapid movements during this portion of the cycle. The brain is very active and is organizing the information received during the day and putting our memories into our minds’ filing system. This is a very important time for our brains. Since the brain is very active during this state, this is the stage of sleep that dreams often occurs. When REM state is completed, a new sleep cycle will begin again and return to a cycle of light-sleep→deep-sleep→light-sleep→REM.
During a normal night of sleep cycles, our deep-sleep states will become shorter and shorter while the REM portions will become longer. So when you sleep for longer periods of time (over 8 hours), you’re more likely to be in a REM portion or light-sleep state. The brain is still active in both these times and when you awake, you still feel tired.
After drinking, the first 1~2 cycles of REM portions are suppressed and their duration is much shorter than normal. However, after two cycles of sleep, the alcohol has been metabolized by the body and the REM portions will rebound back and try to make up for the suppressed states by prolonging the time spent in REM. In other words, the latter part of our sleep, the deep-sleep states will decrease drastically and most of the time will be spent in light-sleep or REM sleep. In addition to being easily awoken, constant dreaming will not allow the body to rest properly. Therefore, people that like to drink before going to sleep will have poor sleep quality or feel like they haven’t gotten enough sleep. In the long run this will cause more harm to the body!
Besides Disrupting Our Sleep Cycle, Alcohol Will Cause Other Sleep Problems
When alcohol enters our stomachs, it affects our central nervous system by allowing the blood vessels to expand and increases our body’s heat dissipation. Therefore, after drinking we will temporary feel hot, but quickly afterwards our body temperature will decrease. If we do not keep our bodies warm, we will be prone to temperature loss. In addition, alcohol has a diuretic function which may cause us to have to get up to go to the bathroom at night which also interrupts our sleep cycle.
Since alcohol directly affects our nervous system, it will cause our muscles to relax (including our respiratory tract) causing snoring; sleep apnea (a syndrome that causes interruption or stoppage of breathing during sleep) which may be dangerous if untreated and of course, will affect the people that you are sleeping with.
For people who have been relying on drinking for a long period of time, to help fall asleep. Asides from snoring and poor quality of sleep, addiction to alcohol may become a risk. When the body is used to the presence of alcohol, it will require more and more to achieve the same relaxing effects which may lead to an unending malicious cycle.
Reduce Drinking Before Going to Bed, Use Other Methods to Alleviate Insomnia
Although drinking can help us fall asleep faster, it actually affects the quality of sleep. A small pleasure can have large repercussions. There are many ways to counter insomnia and improve sleep quality these days. Seeking medical treatment, doing exercise, diet therapy, even buying new bedding, negative ion air purifiers, sports necklaces and bracelets are all good alternatives to minimizing the reliance on alcohol as much as possible.
If you really can’t stop drinking. Then try not to sleep immediately after drinking to allow the body more time to metabolize the alcohol and reduce the effects of alcohol on the sleep cycle!
To summarize, many scholars and actual research do not agree that drinking will help with sleep quality. However, to help with sleep, Artificer’s sports necklaces also provide our own benefits and hopes that everyone can find your own ideal way to improve your sleep quality.
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism – Sleep, Sleepiness, And Alcohol Use
Sleep Foundation – How alcohol affects the quality – and quality of sleep
Drink Aware – Alcohol and sleep