Substance Use

How Does Alcohol Affect Your Sleep?

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How Does Alcohol Consumption Impact How We Sleep?

Some people may enjoy a “nightcap” with the belief that it will help induce sleepiness and lull them to sleep. Despite this popular belief and while alcohol may help you drift off to sleep initially, alcohol is actually the culprit behind many sleep problems and declining sleep quality. For these reasons, using alcohol as a sleep aid is not recommended and is likely to disrupt your sleep, causing your sleep quality to be much worse than it would be if you hadn’t consumed alcohol. 

Keep reading to learn more about the negative effects of alcohol on the sleep cycle.

Are you or a loved one suffering from alcohol dependence? Zinnia Healing is here for you. Learn more about our alcohol use disorder treatment here.

How Does Alcohol Affect Sleep?

Studies show that while alcohol does help healthy people fall asleep faster and into deeper sleep sooner, it reduces rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.

REM sleep usually happens about 90 minutes after a sober person falls asleep, it’s the stage when people dream, and it’s considered the phase of sleep where restoration happens.

When REM sleep is disrupted, it can lead to:

  • Daytime drowsiness
  • Sluggishness
  • Poor concentration
  • Bad mood
  • Depression and other mental health effects

 On a normal night, people cycle through episodes of:

  1. Light sleep
  2. Deep sleep
  3. REM sleep

While every stage has its own benefits and importance, REM sleep and deep sleep are considered the most important for physical and mental health and restoration.

Alcohol’s sedative effects help us fall into the deep sleep stage of sleep faster, but it’s only short-lived.

After alcohol wears off, the body spends more time in light sleep, resulting in more sleep disruptions. 

Alcohol and Melatonin Production

Alcohol has also been shown to alter melatonin production and the body’s circadian rhythm, which is responsible for keeping the body on a 24-hour cycle. Melatonin regulates sleep and awake times, making it easier to fall asleep.

As part of the 24-hour cycle, the body releases melatonin to prepare you for sleep at night. Studies have found that consuming alcohol before bed lowers melatonin levels and interferes with body temperature, compromising overall sleep quality.

Alcohol and Insomnia

Statistics show that insomnia is the most common sleep disorder. It makes it hard to fall asleep, stay asleep, and/or causes people to wake up too early.

People who consume alcohol before bed often end up experiencing symptoms of insomnia, whether or not they normally suffer from the condition. Even irregular occurrences of insomnia can start impacting a person’s daily quality of life and functioning while also starting a chain reaction of self-medication where people use booze as a crutch to fall asleep. Since the alcohol disrupts their sleep, they wake up tired and self-medicate with caffeine, energy drinks, and other stimulants to help keep them awake. Then at night, they use more alcohol to help them come down from their stimulant-induced “up.”

Sleep deprivation can have some pretty significant health side effects, including:

  • Mood swings
  • Hallucinations
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Paranoia
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Weakened immune system
  • Decreased performance at work/school
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Increased risk of heart disease
  • Increased risk of high blood pressure
  • Increased risk of stroke
  • Increased sensitivity to pain
  • Increased risk of obesity and diabetes

Instead of turning to alcohol or increasing your alcohol intake to help you fall or stay asleep, try some of these healthy sleep habits:

  • Avoid afternoon or evening naps
  • Read a book, take a hot bath, meditate, or do something else that relaxes you before bed
  • Avoid drinking caffeine in the afternoon
  • Establish a regular sleep routine and schedule
  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day

If you are finding yourself consuming alcohol regularly to fall asleep and can’t fall asleep without it, you are not alone. Help is available, and recovery is possible. Contact Zinnia Healing today at (855) 430-9439 to learn more about our treatment programs.

Alcohol and Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder where breathing repeatedly stops and starts throughout the night, leading to sleep disruptions and poor sleep quality. People with sleep apnea typically snore very loudly. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter whether you have sleep apnea or the amount of alcohol you consume; drinking alcohol before bed can cause snoring. 

Researchers believe that consuming alcohol increases the risk of sleep apnea by 25%

Alcohol and Nightmares

Alcohol’s effects can also lead to vivid dreams and nightmares as your sleep patterns fluctuate. When dreams and nightmares are extremely vivid, they can cause you to wake up, leading to more sleep disturbances and making it harder to fall back asleep.

Alcohol and Sleepwalking 

Alcohol can cause you to become restless, move, talk, and even sleepwalk. 

Alcohol Withdrawal and Sleep

Sleep disturbances from alcohol withdrawal happen frequently. In fact, trouble sleeping is a common symptom of alcohol withdrawal. Some estimates show that up to 72% of people with alcohol withdrawal symptoms also have insomnia.

The sleep disturbances can sometimes arise from the uneasy symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Shakiness
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Heavy sweating
  • Fever
  • Racing heart
  • Nightmares

This is why finding professional help at a detox center to mitigate the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal is so important to avoid relapsing or feeling as if you have to have a “nightcap” to get the symptoms of withdrawal to stop and be able to sleep.

Zinnia Healing Can Help

Are you ready to break free from the chains of alcoholism? Call Zinnia Healing today at (855) 430-9439. We have a broad range of treatment options and different types of therapy at our treatment facilities around the country, including inpatient and outpatient treatment options, group therapy, family therapy, and much more. Recovery is possible with Zinnia Healing. Don’t wait any longer to get your life back. Contact us today. Our team of intake specialists is standing by 24/7.

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