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The Problems With Using Alcohol As a Way to Fall Asleep. Alcohol as a Sleep Aid or Insomnia Cure?
Having trouble falling asleep and thinking about a couple of drinks as a way to help ease you off into never never land?
Well, it might just work, probably will in fact, but there are a couple of reasons why alcohol is not considered to be a great sleeping aid.
1. It reduces the quality and restfulness of your sleep.
Although the depressant effects of alcohol may see you slide of into unconsciousness quickly, your body will metabolize the alcohol consumed as you sleep, and after a few hours you will start to suffer a mini sleeping hangover.
After your body has metabolized all of the alcohol, the depressant effect of the alcohol seems to rebound, and the alcohol in fact causes greater arousal. What this means in practice is that although alcohol may send you to sleep quickly, after a few hours, your sleep will become:
- More restless
- More prone to nightmares or disturbing dreams
- More interrupted (you will wake up more frequently)
- More REM concentrated (less deep sleep states)
- Shorter (you will wake often and earlier).
So, although you fall asleep easily, you wake up the next day feeling less refreshed and rested.
Even if you drink a large quantity of alcohol the night before, and as such you don't metabolize the alcohol until the morning, you will still pay a price (in addition to the hangover you will probably have). Because sleep under the influence of alcohol is lacking in REM, a whole night of coma-like sleep will leave you with a one night deficit of REM sleep. Your body remembers this, and the next night you suffer an REM rebound sleep. REM rebound sleeps are often filled with disturbing or frightening or arousing dreams, and will reduce the quality of a night's sleep. Chronic alcoholics who may have drank heavily for years may have an REM rebound period upon quitting that can also last for years. REM rebound sleep is in fact a major contributor to relapse amongst recovering alcoholics.
2. It can be habit forming
People who use alcohol as a sleeping aid are at risk for drinking problems. Drinking more than a couple of drinks for consecutive nights puts you at greater risk for addiction, and will also likely prompt the development of an alcohol tolerance – further increasing your risk for alcohol related problems.
3. It can worsen sleep disorders
Alcohol can cause and worsen sleep apnea (A sleep breathing disorder). It can also worsen snoring!
- Home of the Sleep in America Poll - National Sleep Foundation
sleepfoundation.org is dedicated to improving the quality of life for Americans who suffer from sleep problems and disorders such as insomnia, sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome. NSF helps everyone better understand the importance of sleep and th
- SLEEP - a scientific journal site on sleeping
- Scientific American article on REM sleep