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Alcohol May Impair Sleep, Study Says

Alcohol May Impair Sleep, Study Says

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A study shows that an extra drink may be the reason you wake up in the middle of the night


Bad news for those who like that little glass…or two…or three of wine before bed

Bad news for those who like that glass of wine (orr two…or three) before bed: it may actually be ruining your sleep.

While alcohol may be helpful for falling asleep, a study by Canadian and British researchers found that it’s actually worse for staying asleep, according to The San Francisco Chronicle. And, if you’re kicking back more than your fair share of cocktails, you're ruining your chances even more for a good night of sleep. The more you drink, the worse it is for staying asleep and the less time you spend in REM sleep.

The study took 500 volunteers and gave them various levels of alcohol: One to two drinks was a low dose of alcohol, moderate was three to four drinks, and more than four drinks was a high dose. Then the volunteers went to sleep 15 to 30 minutes following their last drink. Each one of the volunteers fell asleep more quickly than they normally would, no matter the amount of alcohol they ingested, but the real results came later in the night when the volunteers’ bodies were metabolizing the alcohol. Many participants woke up more frequently and spent less time in a deep sleep than they normally would, which left many more tired in the morning. Add that to a likely hangover and you may have your answer as to why Sunday mornings may be a little rough.

Many prescription and nonprescription drugs can cause sleep problems. The severity of sleep problems caused by a drug will vary from person to person.

Prescription drugs that may cause sleep problems include:

  • High blood pressure drugs like beta blockers
  • Hormones such as oral contraceptives
  • Steroids, including prednisone
  • Inhaled respiratory drugs
  • Diet pills
  • Seizure medications
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder stimulant medications
  • Some antidepressants

The following nonprescription drugs can cause sleep problems:

  • Pseudoephedrine, including the brand Sudafed
  • Medications with caffeine. These include the brands Anacin, Excedrin, and No-Doz, as well as many cough and cold medications.
  • Illegal drugs such as cocaine, amphetamines, and methamphetamines.
  • Nicotine, which can disrupt sleep and reduce total sleep time. Smokers report more daytime sleepiness and minor accidents than do nonsmokers, especially in younger age groups.

Does Wine Help You Sleep?

Many of us enjoy a glass, or two, of wine in the evening. You deserve it! But if you’re having trouble sleeping, that nightly beverage, may be what is keeping you up. While alcohol certainly seems like it relaxes and soothes us right off to bed, science has something different to say when it comes to quality of sleep.

During sleep, our nervous systems should be getting a break, so our bodies are revived and replenished of vital energy come morning. However, in a study published in the journal JMIR Mental Health, scientists concluded that even low to moderate consumption of alcohol disrupted the nervous system and had a negative effect on sleep quality.

The researchers collected heart rate data from 4,098 men and women between the ages of 18 and 65 on nights when they consumed alcohol and on nights when they did not. With heart rate devices that measured heart rate variability (HRV), or the time between heart beats, the researchers were able to determine the activity of participants’ autonomic nervous systems, which governs the body’s fight-or-flight and rest-and-digest response.

Their findings concluded that as little as one alcoholic beverage could impair sleep quality — and it didn’t make a difference if you were a man or a woman, or if you were a more active or sedentary person. Moderate intake of alcohol (based on standard guidelines determined by body weight and gender) was shown to reduce restorative sleep by up to 24 percent, and high consumption reduced quality sleep as much as 39 percent. Those are precious z’s you’re never going to get back!

So while it may seem like a good idea to unwind before bed with a glass of your favorite red, if you’re really tired and stressed and need to relax, think twice. These days, good sleep is hard enough to come by, so make yours count with some of these natural remedies for sleep instead.

Here Are Some Of The Steps You Can Take To Improve Your Quality Of Sleep:

  1. Sleep in a room with a temperature of around 65 degrees Fahrenheit to get the best sleep condition.
  2. Block out light by turning off ceiling lighting, putting your phone on night mode if you use them after dark, and avoiding TV in bed. Being in a dark room will help the brain release melatonin, a hormone that naturally induces sleep.
  3. Reading before bed will help clear the mind and improve sleep quality.
  4. Set a sleep schedule.
  5. Avoid alcohol and heavy meals at night. Instead, eat plant-based foods to help your sleep.
  6. Exercise regularly, but not too late in the day.
Drinking Alcohol At Night Significantly Impacts Your Sleep Quality Reviewed by Dr. Farrah Agustin-Bunch on July 02, 2018 Rating: 5

How does alcohol affect your sleep?

A new study assesses the effect of alcohol consumption on the restorative quality of sleep. The findings might make you want to change your drinking — and implicitly, your sleeping — habits.

Share on Pinterest That extra glass of wine could make your sleep less restful and regenerative.

The negative health consequences of alcohol are numerous. From more alarming outcomes such as cancer to more “cosmetic” inconveniences such as premature signs of aging, alcoholic beverages seem to hide a range of toxic effects that can slowly take a toll on our health.

Most of us probably think that unless someone has alcohol dependency or drinks heavily, they’re out of alcohol’s negative reach. But more and more studies are pointing to a different conclusion.

A recent study reported by Medical News Today, for example, suggested that just one drink can shorten our lifespan. The jury’s still out on whether drinking in moderation is good for you, but some studies have suggested that even light drinkers are at risk of cancer due to their alcohol intake.

A new study, carried out by Finnish-based researchers, adds to these dire prospects. Julia Pietilä, a researcher at the Faculty of Biomedical Sciences and Engineering at Tampere University of Technology in Finland, is the first author of the paper, which was published in the journal JMIR Mental Health.

The fact that the study used real-life information makes it unique. Pietilä and colleagues examined data from 4,098 men and women aged between 18 and 65, whose heart rate variability (HRV) was recorded in uncontrolled, real-world conditions using a special device.

As the authors write, “The association between acute alcohol intake and physiological changes has not yet been studied in noncontrolled real-world settings.”

The scientists had access to sleep HRV recordings from a minimum of 2 nights: one where the participants had consumed alcohol and one where they hadn’t.

HRV measures the variations in time between heartbeats, variations that are regulated by the autonomic nervous system.

The autonomic nervous system comprises the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. The former controls the fight-or-flight response, whereas the latter is responsible for the “rest-and-digest” state.

Therefore, HRV measurements enabled the researchers to assess the quality of the participants’ restful state. The scientists examined the participants’ first 3 hours of sleep after drinking alcohol.

Alcohol intake was broken down into “low,” “moderate,” and “high” — categories that were calculated based on the participants’ body weight.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans define moderate drinking as up to one drink per day for women, and up to two daily drinks for men.

The study revealed that alcohol reduced the restorative quality of sleep. Specifically, a low alcohol intake decreased the physiological recovery that sleep normally provides by 9.3 percent.

Even as little as one drink was shown to impair sleep quality. Moderate alcohol consumption lowered restorative sleep quality by 24 percent, and high alcohol intake by as much as 39.2 percent.

These results were similar for men and women, and alcohol consumption affected sedentary and active people alike.

Interestingly, the harmful effects of alcohol were more pronounced among young people compared with seniors.

Study co-author Tero Myllymäki, a professor in the Department of Sports Technology and Exercise Physiology at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland, comments on the findings, saying, “When you’re physically active, or younger, it’s easy, natural even, to feel like you’re invincible.”

“However, the evidence shows that despite being young and active you’re still susceptible to the negative effects of alcohol on recovery when you are asleep.”

“It’s hard to overstate the importance of sleep, in terms of both quality and quantity,” adds Prof. Myllymäki.

“ While we may not always be able to add hours to our sleep time, with insight into how our behaviors influence the restorative quality of our sleep we can learn to sleep more efficiently. A small change, as long as it’s the right one, can have a big impact.”

The Surprising, Sneaky Sleep Saboteur

Red wine can be a one-way ticket to snoozeville&mdashwhether you're ready to hit the sack or not (everyone falls asleep at the company holiday party, right?). But a comprehensive new study review finds that those sleepy side effects of vino are short-lived. In fact, wine might actually be sabotaging a good night's rest.

Writing in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, investigators at The London Sleep Centre examined every study on the topic and found that while alcohol helps you fall asleep faster, it also makes you more likely to wake up halfway through the night.

Here&rsquos how it works: Alcohol lulls you into sleep quickly, and then helps your body sleep soundly for the first half of the night. But booze also relaxes your respiratory muscles and (yikes!) starts to suppress breathing. This disrupts your rest halfway through the night, and makes it difficult to hit the Holy Grail of rest: REM, the deep sleep stage, which occupies around 20% of our total sleeping hours each night.

Fortunately, you don&rsquot need to deprive yourself of an evening glass of vino to ensure a solid slumber. Stop drinking at least an hour before you go to sleep, says study author Irshaad Ebrahim, PhD, a neuropsychiatrist and researcher at the London Sleep Centre. &ldquoThere will be lower levels of alcohol in your body and it will have less of an impact.&rdquo

Alcohol Is Not a Sleep Aid

“The immediate and short-term impact of alcohol is to reduce the time it takes to fall asleep, and this effect on the first half of sleep may be partly the reason some people with insomnia use alcohol as a sleep aid,” Ebrahim says. “However, this is offset by having more disrupted sleep in the second half of the night.”

“Alcohol should not be used as a sleep aid, and regular use of alcohol as a sleep aid may result in alcohol dependence,” he says.

The findings will appear in the April 2013 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

Alcohol tricks people into thinking they are getting better sleep, says Scott Krakower, DO. He is an addiction specialist at North Shore-LIJ in Mineola, N.Y. “People who drink alcohol often think their sleep is improved, but it is not.”


REM is the more mentally restorative type of sleep, says Michael Breus, PhD, a sleep specialist in Scottsdale, Ariz. “Alcohol is not an appropriate sleep aid. If you rely on alcohol to fall asleep, recognize that you have a greater likelihood to sleepwalk, sleep talk, and have problems with your memory.”


If you are having trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor about how to improve your sleep quality. He or she may be able to rule out underlying sleep disorders like sleep apnea and suggest appropriate sleep aids.

Better sleep habits can also help. Some tips to improve sleep habits include:

  • Get regular exercise, but no later than a few hours before bed.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, or nicotine in the evening.
  • Reserve the bed for sleeping and sex only.
  • Keep your bedroom at a cool temperature.
  • Set regular wake and bed times.


Ebrahim, I. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 2012, study received ahead of print.

Poor sleep in adolescence predicts future problems, study says

A poor night’s sleep can carry far greater consequences for teens than just nodding off in class the next morning.

Routine failure to get adequate sleep -- either because of issues like insomnia or just staying up late surfing the Internet -- can predict future alcohol-related problems, such as binge drinking, risky sexual behavior and fighting, according to new research.

In a paper published Friday in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, Idaho State University psychologists said that a growing body of evidence suggests adolescents need to be educated on the importance of proper sleep.

National polls indicate that 27% of school-aged children and 45% of adolescents do not sleep enough. At the same time, a growing body of evidence has uncovered connections between sleep deprivation and impaired cognitive function.

While most of these studies have focused on insomnia, which is defined as having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep every day, or almost every day, for a year, this recent study considered the loss of sleep for other reasons.

“Adolescents may have insufficient sleep due to a variety of reasons including academic and social obligations, poor sleep hygiene, and 24/7 Internet access through phones and computers,” wrote lead study author Maria Wong, a professor of developmental psychology, and her colleagues.

The researchers based their conclusions on data contained in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, a survey of 6,504 students in grades 7 through 12.

During the first two years of the survey, adolescents who had sleep difficulties once a week, every day or almost every day in the last 12 months were about 47% more likely to have alcohol-related interpersonal problems, 47% more likely to engage in binge drinking and 80% more likely to engage in regretted sexual activities, the authors wrote.

“In other words, fewer hours of sleep were associated with greater odds of alcohol-related interpersonal problems,” the authors wrote.

When study participants were surveyed a year later, researchers found that increased sleep helped reduce problems.

“As hours of sleep increased by 1 unit, participants were 8% less likely to report interpersonal problems,” authors wrote. “With respect to binge-drinking, a 1-hour increase in sleep was associated with a 9% decrease in the odds of binge drinking.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teens need nine to 10 hours of sleep a day, while adults need 7 to 8.

The researchers said it remains unclear what factors influence the relationship between sleep and a variety of behaviors and abilities.

“There is a growing body of literature showing that sleep problems may adversely impact control of affect, cognitive processes and behavior,” the authors wrote.

“The adverse impact of sleep deprivation on executive functions in general, and inhibitory processes in particular, may increase the likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors, such as the ones examined in the study.”

You’re more likely to successfully abstain from alcohol if you have support. “Tell as many of your friends and family members who feel safe as you can about this,” Dr. Murphy said.

It also helps to connect with others who share your goal. In-person support meetings have become difficult to access in the pandemic, but help has proliferated online. Free sobriety support communities with virtual meetings include Alcoholics Anonymous, SMART Recovery, SheRecovers, In the Rooms, Eight Step Recovery, Refuge Recovery, Recovery Dharma, and LifeRing, among others. Neither good lighting nor charisma is required or expected join from your phone while walking in a park or sitting in your car.

“I go to two meetings a day now,” said Braunwyn Windham-Burke, a reality TV star whose sobriety journey is currently playing out on season 15 of “The Real Housewives of Orange County.” “It’s so easy, because it’s in my bedroom.”

One Tempest member, Valentine Darling, 32, of Olympia, Wash., finds virtual meetings to be more L.G.B.T.Q.-friendly as well. “I feel safe sitting next to my house plants, so I’m more fully present and I’m also more authentically me: I wear dresses and express my gender queerness without worrying that anyone will follow me home.”

Many organizations have meetings specifically for people of color, certain age groups or even professions. Ben’s Friends is a sobriety support group geared toward restaurant workers. “We speak a common language in restaurants,” said co-founder Steve Palmer. “You find out that, ‘OK, he’s a line cook. She’s a bartender. These are my people.’”

How to practice good sleep hygiene

As we all know, sleep doesn’t necessarily come the second your head hits the pillow. Practicing good sleep hygiene often makes it easier to fall asleep, lowers the odds of too much tossing and turning, and ups the likelihood that you’ll wake up feeling refreshed, not groggy. Follow these tips to make sure you’re making the most of your shut-eye, according to Wells.

Set a schedule

Go to sleep and wake up at roughly the same time each day. Your body gets used to the rhythm of a consistent sleep schedule, making it easier to fall asleep and wake up.

Get some exercise

�ing physically active during the day can help you fall asleep more easily at night,” according to the CDC. The activity recommendation for adults is at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity, or at least 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. But, don’t exercise before bed.

Wells cautions against exercising too close to bedtime. A February 2019 study found that subjects who exercised vigorously within an hour of bedtime had a harder time falling asleep, because their heart rates didn’t have enough time to slow down. This doesn’t mean you must become a morning workout person, though: Subjects who exercised within four hours of bedtime didn’t experience any negative consequences.

Sleep in a completely dark room

Make sure all of your lights are off while you sleep, and avoid keeping blinking electronics in your room overnight. “Light suppresses sleep hormones, keeping you awake,” Wells says.

While darkness is important for good sleep, light can help you wake up (because, again, light suppresses sleep hormones). If you sleep during regular nighttime hours, trade in heavy blackout curtains for lighter ones that will let the morning sun in. If you keep irregular sleep hours and need blackout curtains to block light while you sleep, try and open them as soon as you wake up.

Avoid bright lights (and blue-light devices)

This can be a tough one, but try and shut down your electronics—yes, that includes your phone𠅊t least an hour before bed. If that’s totally impossible, dim the brightness as much as possible. Same goes for the lighting in your house: Dim the lights as bedtime approaches, or turn off all the lights you don’t absolutely need.

Avoid heavy meals before bedtime

Although there isn’t a ton of research on how our food timing affects sleep, it’s likely a good idea to avoid big meals close to bedtime. A 2015 study found that the more people ate at night, the worse their quality of sleep was likely to be. Don’t skip dinner, but try and finish eating at least two hours before bed. And, don’t fall into the trap of not eating during the day only to overeat at night.

Avoid caffeine after lunch

Caffeine in the morning can be helpful for productivity and energy levels, but you probably want to avoid it in the afternoon and evening. A 2013 study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that drinking caffeine six hours before bed had significant disruptive effects on sleep quality.

Don’t use alcohol to help you go to sleep

While alcohol often helps you fall asleep faster, it lessens your quality of sleep. A 2018 study found that even low alcohol consumption (a single drink) impaired sleep quality by 9 percent. And, the more subjects drank, the worse their sleep quality typically was.

Keep your bedroom cool

According to the NSF, 67 degrees fahrenheit is the best sleep temperature. This varies from person to person, but it’s a good starting point.

Don’t take your worries to bed with you

Wells points out the importance of quieting your mind before you hit the hay. Try to avoid work or other stressful tasks within two hours of bedtime. Meditation can be a great way to wind down, but if it isn’t your thing, spend an hour or two before bedtime doing something that relaxes you.

Use a white noise machine to mask out sleep-disturbing sounds

If you’ve tried everything and still can’t seem to fall asleep or stay asleep, it might be because of outside noise. While you can’t exactly stop the horns from honking at 2 A.M., you can use a white noise machine to block these disruptive noises.


The negative effect of both acute total and chronic partial SD on attention and working memory is supported by existing literature. Total SD impairs a range of other cognitive functions as well. In partial SD, a more thorough evaluation of higher cognitive functions is needed. Furthermore, the effects of SD have not been thoroughly compared among some essential subpopulations.

Aging influences a person’s ability to cope with SD. Although in general the cognitive performance of aging people is often poorer than that of younger individuals, during SD performance in older subjects seems to deteriorate less. Based on the scarce evidence, it seems that in terms of cognitive performance, women may endure prolonged wakefulness better than men, whereas physiologically they recover slower. Tolerating SD can also depend on individual traits. However, mechanisms inducing differences between the young and aging and between men and women or different individuals are mostly unclear. Several reasons such as physiological mechanisms as well as social or environmental factors may be involved. In conclusion, there is great variation in SD studies in terms of both subject selections and methods, and this makes it difficult to compare the different studies. In the future, methodological issues should be considered more thoroughly.


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