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A Drink Might Make You Drowsy, but does it Help You Sleep?



A Drink Might Make You Drowsy, but Does it Help You Sleep?

A Drink Might Make You Drowsy, but Does it Help You Sleep? Photo credit: Bigstock

Many people believe having a couple beers or a nice glass of wine before bed helps them to get a better night sleep, but research indicates that this may not be the case.  Although alcohol makes you feel drowsy, it may interfere with normal sleep patterns and impact both the quality and quantity of sleep you get over the course of the night.  Once the recommended treatment for insomniacs, alcohol is now thought to be highly disruptive to the sleep cycle, with consequences that far outweigh its sedative effects.

How Alcohol Robs You of Sleep

For many people, having a drink to help you dose off  seems like a no-brainer.  The sedative effect of alcohol can make you feel drowsy and often ushers you into a deep sleep faster than you can fall asleep on your own.  Unfortunately, this quick fix has much more damaging consequences later in the night.  Drinking alcohol right before bed results in lighter, lower quality sleep interrupted by frequent awakenings which leaves you feeling as tired when you wake up as you were when you went to bed.

How Alcohol Affects Sleep Apnea

While alcohol can impact any pre-existing sleep disorder, it has a significant impact on those who suffer from sleep apnea.  This condition is caused by obstructions in the airway that make it difficult to breathe effectively while sleeping.  Alcohol intensifies this problem by causing the airways to narrow even further and making it even harder for the person to get the quality sleep they need.

How Alcohol Gets You Up

Your body recognizes alcohol as a type of poison and takes action to keep it from doing significant harm.  One thing that happens is the suppression of vasopressin, the chemical that tells the kidneys to reabsorb water rather than sending everything to the bladder.  This causes two issues that impact your sleep.  First, you are more likely to have to get up and go to the bathroom during the night  than if you did not drink any alcohol before bed.  Second, you wake up dehydrated and headachy,  un-rested from the sleep you were able to get.

Do This Instead of Drinking

If you are having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, there are a few small changes you can make that may add up to a big difference.

  1. Routine.  Getting up at the same time and going to bed at the same time everyday is an important way to train your body for good sleep habits.
  2. Move.  Exercise and sleep go hand in hand and working out will help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
  3. Decaffeinate.  Caffeine is going to keep you going, often long after you drink it.  Make sure it isn’t compromising your ability to drift off to sleep by cutting it out of your day by 2 PM.
  4. Calm.  Give your mind and body time to settle into sleep by removing any highly stimulating activities from your bedtime routine.
  5. Unplug.  Get the sleep you need by getting off your laptop, phone, television, Xbox, iPod, and any other piece of technology.

If you try these sleep tips and still find you cannot fall asleep or stay asleep without having a drink, call your doctor and get checked for other sleep disturbing problems or disorders.

About Valley Sleep Center:

Since 2002, Valley Sleep Center, accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, has provided Arizona with diagnostic sleep disorder testing in a home-like atmosphere, ensuring a comfortable, relaxing experience for patients.  Their Board Certified Sleep Medicine Specialists consist of experienced and knowledgeable physicians who provide expert advice across a multitude of sleep related disorders including insomnia, sleep apnea, snoring, excessive daytime sleepiness, hypertension, sleepwalking, and pediatric sleep problems.  They accept most insurance plans as well as Medicare.  For more information contact Lauri Leadley at 480-830-3900; http://www.valleysleepcenter.com.



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