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The Effects of Alcohol on Sleep

A Complicated Duo

 

Alcohol and sleep have a funny relationship, one that’s important to understand so we can make the most of our nightly rest. Before you kiss your wine goodbye, know that understanding the effect alcohol has on our natural sleep cycle will allow us to partake thoughtfully, rather than having to abstain altogether. A win/win in our book! Historically, alcohol has been labeled a sedative but that definition is both complex and personal. Some people drink to help them fall asleep, and some people can’t sleep after a night of drinking. Out of all sleep aids, alcohol is the most common - so common that upwards of 20 percent of Americans rely on a nightly drink or two to help them get to sleep.



Before we jump in, it’s important to note that sleep deficiency is the most common epidemic in our country. One in every 3 people suffer from poor sleep. This number has undoubtedly gone up in 2020. As we’ve mentioned before, poor sleep isn’t just poor sleep, it’s the gateway to many other chronic illnesses. That said, if you feel like alcohol helps you fall asleep, you might not be wrong. The real questions are, does it help you stay asleep? And how does it affect your sleep long-term? Behavioral studies show that having 2-3 drinks before bed does help you get* to sleep on nights 1-3 of this kind of intake. After that, the effects of that same amount of alcohol will begin to diminish and the potential for sleep disturbance increases with continued use. When we fall asleep with alcohol in our system, our body works to metabolize it over the first half of our nightly sleep. This process requires more work from our body so we spend more time in ‘deep sleep’ rather than REM. This might sound good but it’s not!  REM is a crucial stage in our sleep cycle as it rules mental restoration, memory, and emotional processing. If you wake up after a night of drinking with a heavy dose of brain fog, that’s why! To sum it up, regular alcohol consumption = a recipe for poor or disrupted sleep.

 


As we stated in the intro, how alcohol manifests itself in our body can be very personal. Variables like weight, age, sex, body type and even the type of alcohol or how quickly we consume it are all factors to consider. A few facts that apply to everyone when it comes to alcohol consumption: 


  • Alcohol disrupts circadian functioning. When we drink, we are directly interfering with our body's natural biological clock that influences each function throughout the body. 
  • Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. This is why we tend to feel relaxed or potentially sleepy after drinking.

When our biological clock is off, we experience the side effects from head to toe. This unbalance shows up in the form of leaky gut, poor liver function, insomnia, and depression or anxiety. If you’re prone to anxiety and/or depression, it’s likely your circadian rhythm is already off which can make you even more sensitive to the effects of alcohol. Caring for our circadian rhythm is crucial as it regulates the vast majority of processes with our body, from overall immunity to energy, metabolism, sex drive, mood, and cognitive functions. So when we were designing a product for total health, we knew we had to create one to optimize sleep and help normalize your circadian rhythm--cue the spotlight on our Good Night tincture.


So moving forward, how do we drink wisely and avoid disrupted sleep? We can start by choosing the ‘right’ time of day to drink. Research has showcased that the body metabolizes alcohol differently at different times of day. The body is most able to process alcohol during the late afternoon and early evening hours. Hello, happy hour! Skip the brunch cocktails (most difficult for the body to process while you’re waking up) and cut the drinks 3-4 hours before hopping into bed at night as they’re most likely to disrupt your sleep. And if you happen to wake up in the middle of night thanks to a bit too much wine (insert alcohol of your choice), you can always reach for some Good Night to help lull your body back into that deep restorative sleep and avoid that day-ruiner of a morning hangover.