Does Alcohol Affect Sleep Patterns?

Does Alcohol Affect Sleep Patterns?

Nightcap is not uncommon among adults in India. But does it effect your sleep pattern in any significant way? SleepGuru tries to explain.

Almost 20 percent of the adult population turn to alcohol to aid in a good night’s sleep. But the truth is that regular drinking, even moderately, can interfere with your normal sleeping patterns than assisting it. There is a direct connection between alcohol consumption and sleep disorders as it is known to disrupt the duration and structure of your sleep state, affect the time required to fall asleep, and alter the overall sleep time. Here’s what happens when you slip off to slumber at night after drinking alcohol.

Disrupting Sleep Patterns

Drinking alcohol just before going to bed is linked with slow-wave sleep patterns called delta activity. This activity allows for memory formation and learning. Simultaneously, another brain pattern referred to as alpha activity gets turned on. This does not actually take place during sleep, but when you are resting quietly. Both the alpha and delta activity combined together after drinking is responsible for inhibiting restorative sleep.

Interrupting Circadian Rhythm

While you may feel drowsy and doze off shortly after drinking at night, it is also common to wake up in the middle of the night. Alcohol disrupts the normal production of chemicals in the body that triggers sleepiness and subsides once you have had enough sleep. Post drinking, a sleep-inducing chemical in the brain called adenosine increases, which allows for a fast onset of sleep. But it subsides immediately afterward, making you more likely to wake up before you have completed your sleep cycle.

Blocking REM Sleep

Another reason for people getting lower sleep from alcohol consumption is that it blocks REM sleep, which is considered as the most restorative type of sleep. With reduced REM sleep, you are more likely to wake up before complete sleep, making you feel tired and unfocused.

Leading to More Bathroom Trips

Alcohol causes the entire body of the drinker to relax, including the muscles of the throat. This makes the person more prone to snoring and sleep apnea.

Aggravating Breathing Problems

The more you stay awake, the more you are prone to making trips to the bathroom. During sleep, the body puts your bladder into hibernation mode, preventing you from going to the bathroom. But the presence of a diuretic like alcohol can create the urge to go to the bathroom and interrupt your normal sleep pattern.

Reducing Sleep Onset Latency

Consuming alcohol before sleep reduces sleep onset latency, which is the time taken to fall asleep. Depending on the quantity of alcohol consumed, what may seem like falling asleep is actually something closer to passing out. Drinking regularly builds a tolerance to the sedative effects of alcohol. This creates the need to drink more often to get the same sleep-inducing effects.

The Bottom Line

Since alcohol is seen to disrupt normal sleeping habits, it does not mean that you need to stop drinking alcohol altogether. It is advised to avoid drinking alcohol before going to bed so that you can avoid the possible risk of its interruption with your normal sleep pattern.