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The Negative Impact of Alcohol on Sleep

Updated: Jun 10


Alcohol is often enjoyed for its supposed relaxing and socialising effects, however, it is important to recognise the impact of alcohol on sleep, which can be detrimental to both, the quality and quantity of sleep. While initially it may seem like alcohol helps with falling asleep, its effects on sleep architecture and overall sleep quality can be negative


Disruption of Sleep Patterns: How Alcohol Affects Quality of Sleep


The relationship between alcohol and sleep is complex, with alcohol significantly altering the normal progression of sleep stages. In the initial stages of sleep, alcohol acts as a sedative and can help individuals fall asleep faster. However, as the nights progresses, the quality of sleep deteriorates. Studies have shown that alcohol increases the duration of light sleep, while decreasing the amount of deep sleep. This disruption can result in fragmented and less restorative sleep, leaving individuals feeling groggy and fatigued upon waking.


Increased Sleep Fragmentation: The Consequences of Alcohol Consumption on Sleep Patterns


One of the negative effects of alcohol on sleep is increased sleep fragmentation. Alcohol has been found to cause more frequent awakenings throughout the night, leading to a disrupted sleep pattern. These awakenings can be attributed to several factors, including increased bathroom trips due to alcohol’s diuretic effects and the withdrawal symptoms that occur as alcohol levels in blood decrease during the night. As a result, individuals may experience poorer sleep efficiency and reduced overall sleep duration.


Impaired REM Sleep: Alcohol’s Impact on Cognitive Function and Emotional Wellbeing


Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep is a crucial stage of sleep associated with cognitive processes, memory consolidation and emotional regulation. Unfortunately, alcohol consumption suppresses REM sleep. Research has shown that alcohol decreases the duration of REM sleep and interferes with the normal cycling between REM and non-REM sleep stages. This disruption can have long-term consequences on cognitive functions, mood regulation and overall wellbeing.


Increased Snoring and Sleep-Related Breathing Issues: Alcohol’s Role in Sleep Disruption


Alcohol consumption has beed linked to an increase in snoring and other sleep-related breathing issues. Alcohol relaxes the muscles in throat and airway, which can lead to partial obstruction and increased resistance to airflow during sleep. This can result in louder and more frequent snoring, as well as an increased risk of developing sleep apnoea. These breathing obstructions further disturb sleep quality and can have detrimental effects on cardiovascular health and daytime functioning.


Worsened Sleep Disorders: How Alcohol Exacerbates Sleep Problems


The impact of alcohol on sleep disorders is significant. For individuals with conditions such as insomnia or sleep apnoea, alcohol can significantly worsen their symptoms. Alcohol relaxes muscles in the upper airway, making it more likely for sleep apnoea episodes to occur. Additionally, alcohol disrupts the natural sleep-wake cycle, making it harder for individuals with insomnia to achieve restful sleep. These negative effects can perpetuate a cycle of poor sleep and further impact overall wellbeing.


While initially alcohol may facilitate falling asleep, its overall impact on sleep quality and sleep patterns is largely negative. Alcohol increases sleep fragmentation, decreases the amount of restorative deep sleep and worsens sleep disorders. Furthermore, it impairs REM sleep and can contribute to snoring and other leap-relating breath issues. It is crucial to recognise the potential negative consequences of alcohol on sleep and consider limiting its consumption to promote optimal sleep health.



The Negative Effect of Alcohol on Sleep.


References:


Ebrahim, I. O., Shapiro, C. M., Williams, A. J., & Fenwick, P. B. (2013). Alcohol and sleep I: effects on normal sleep. Alcoholism, clinical and experimental research, 37(4), 539–549.


Roehrs, T., & Roth, T. (2001). Sleep, sleepiness, sleep disorders and alcohol use and abuse. Sleep medicine reviews, 5(4), 287–297.


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