Researchers suggest imbibing a generous pour prior to bedtime may get you off to sleep faster, but the quality of the slumber is less satisfying for the body. Alcohol upsets our normal sleep cycles. There are several studies and reports that advocate a little nip before bed, speeding along dozing off (sleep latency). However, using this method can rob you of quality of rapid eye movement (REM) stage sleep, which is considered the most beneficial type of sleep where dreams occur. This happens especially when the alcohol has been fully metabolized.
The average adult sleeps six to eight hours every night. Sleep is a naturally recurring state characterized by reduced or absent consciousness or suspended sensory activity. Sleep is a heightened anabolic state, accentuating the growth and rejuvenation of the immune, nervous, skeletal, and muscular systems.
The function and mechanism of sleep is only partially understood. Sleep is often thought to help conserve energy, allowing the body to restore from the activity and stresses of waking hours, and an opportunity for the mind to reset.
Abundant evidence demonstrates that lack of sleep can have serious consequences including increased risk of depression, impaired breathing, and heart disease. Excessive sleep disturbance is associated with memory deficits and impaired work performance.
Alcohol consumption can induce sleep disorders by disrupting the sequence and duration of sleep states and by altering total sleep time including the time required to fall asleep. Once a dependency is established, abstaining from the habitual use of alcohol as a sleep aid can cause insomnia, as the chronic use of alcohol can effect melatonin (hormone) secretion responsible for sleep. Changes in sleep maintenance and sleep architecture can develop within three days of alcohol consumption before bedtime.
“We should be very cautious about drinking on a regular basis. Sleep may be deeper to start with, but then becomes disrupted.”
Chris Idzikowski, Director of the Edinburgh Sleep Centre, said:
“One or two glasses might be nice in the short term, but if you continue to use a tipple before bedtime it can cause significant problems. If you do have a drink, it’s best to leave an hour and a half to two hours before going to bed so the alcohol is already wearing off. With increasing doses, alcohol suppresses our breathing. It can turn non-snorers into snorers and snorers into people with sleep apnea, where the breathing’s interrupted. Alcohol on the whole is not useful for improving a whole night’s sleep. Sleep may be deeper to start with, but then becomes disrupted. Additionally, that deeper sleep will probably promote snoring and poorer breathing. So, one shouldn’t expect better sleep with alcohol.”