After a long stressful day many of us find ourselves grasping for the cold embrace of a glass of wine or beer to take the edge off the day. An age old remedy – alcohol depresses the central nervous system, slowing down neurons and giving us the illusion of "feeling tired".
If we drink too much we often find ourselves going to bed tired but bolting awake in the early hours of the morning – incapable of being able to get back to sleep and feeling "wired". This is due to a perfect storm of an onslaught of chemical processes in our bodies trying to counteract the alcohol.
When we drink we also miss a substantial amount of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, meaning we wake up more often, struggle to go back to sleep, and still wake up feeling exhausted no matter how much sleep we actually managed to get.
Ever wonder why trying to sleep after drinking is like trying to take a nap at a Metallica concert?
Here we take a look at 8 Ways Alcohol Affects Sleep
Disrupts REM Sleep: Alcohol disrupts our rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is the phase of sleep where we dream and process emotions. REM sleep is essential for emotional regulation and memory consolidation, so when it's disrupted, it can affect our ability to process emotions and memories effectively.
Causes Snoring: We've all had a partner who passes out drunk and sounds like a chainsaw orchestra. Snoring when drunk happens due to alcohol relaxing the muscles in our throat, making it more difficult to breathe properly.
Increases Urination: Ever noticed how once you've 'broken the seal', emptying your bladder is like trying to empty a swimming pool with a teaspoon? Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it increases urine production. This can lead to more trips to the bathroom during the night, which can disrupt our sleep.
Alcohol Dehydrates the Body: Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it can cause dehydration, leading to a dry mouth, thirst, and an increased need to use the bathroom during the night.
Causes Night Sweats: Alcohol widens our blood vessels while we sleep, causing our bodies to heat up. This change in body temperature gives us the night sweats – making us uncomfortable and disrupting our sleep.
Worsens Sleep Apnea: If you have sleep apnea, drinking alcohol can worsen the condition. This is because it relaxes the muscles in our throat, making it more difficult to breathe properly.
Causes Fatigue: Despite the sedative effects of alcohol, it can actually cause fatigue and grogginess the next day. This can make it difficult to concentrate and perform daily tasks effectively. If we are in the cycle of drinking every evening to relax, we can end up on a slippy slope with our sleep being impacted severely.
- Increases Anxiety and Depression: Finally, alcohol can also increase anxiety and depression, which can further disrupt our sleep. This is due to it affecting the levels of neurotransmitters in our brain, including serotonin and dopamine, which are important for mood regulation.