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Why Alcohol Before Bed Is Not Good For Sleep

Many of us reach for a glass of wine or a beer to relax in the evening, especially if we have a hard time getting to sleep at night.


Red wine pouring into a glass

photo: bigstock

A glass of red wine is great for nodding off, right? You are actually wrong if you think so. There are several reasons why alcohol before bed is not the best choice for a sleep aid. Here’s why:


Alcohol Disrupts Sleep Patterns

Alcohol may knock you out quicker or help you feel sleepy, but it also reduces the amount of time you spend in REM sleep, which in turn reduces the number of sleep cycles you have during the night. This is why, after a night of drinking, you actually feel more tired after you wake up than you did the night before.


Alcohol Confuses Your Body’s Natural Circadian Rhythm

Your body has a built in clock that regulates your body’s sleepiness and wakefulness. You disrupt this when you artificially cause sleepiness through the use of alcohol. It affects your sleep homeostasis and will cause you to more and more regularly rely on alcohol to get to sleep.


Alcohol Causes You To Wake Up More

Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it makes you lose hydration quicker. You may have to get up in the middle of the night to use the toilet, which will make it harder to have a uninterrupted night’s sleep. It will also cause you to be dehydrated, and since you will not be hydrating yourself while sleeping, the dehydration will last all night, causing you to wake up thirsty and with a dry nose and mouth.


Regular Use May Result In Dependence

If you regularly start using alcohol as a sleep aid, it may cause you to become dependent on alcohol to go to sleep at all. It also increases your chances of sleepwalking, sleep talking, snoring, and increases memory problems.


Next Morning Drowsiness

In addition to being tired the next day due to the lack of quality sleep during the night, you will have a decreased brain function that morning, and may have memory problems. If repeated over a long period of time, you could experience significant detrimental effects on neurocognitive function and daytime wellbeing.


Instead of alcohol, try drinking a hot, milky or herbal drink to relax in the evening. You can also exercise in the early evening to promote nighttime tiredness, and if you are suffering from prolonged and unrelieved insomnia, you may need to see a medical professional for help with your condition, instead of self medicating with alcohol.


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