Think twice before drinking that holiday nightcap. Sure, that late-night cocktail or final glass of wine or beer before bed may help you feel sleepy, but it won't guarantee a good night's rest.
According to a recent survey from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), a vast 68% of Americans have lost sleep due to drinking alcohol past bedtime, including one in five U.S. adults who have often lost sleep due to alcohol consumption. With the holidays approaching, it's important to know why alcohol and sleep don't mix.
While you might think alcohol helps you sleep, there are negative effects to having a drink close to bedtime. Alcohol use can fragment your sleep, leading to more frequent awakenings during the second half of the night."
Dr. Kannan Ramar, President, American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM)
Men (75%) are more likely to lose sleep due to drinking alcohol than women (60%), and adults in the 35-44 age range (78%) also are more likely to stay up too late imbibing.
Studies show that a moderate amount of alcohol consumed an hour before bedtime reduces melatonin production, which can disrupt your circadian rhythms or your internal clock that helps to regulate your 24-hour sleep-wake cycle. Other ways alcohol can negatively impact the quality of your sleep include:
- Trigger new sleep disorders or exacerbate existing ones, including insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)
- Lead to excessive relaxation of the muscles in the head, neck, and throat, which may interfere with normal breathing during sleep
- Cause more frequent need to get up and go to the bathroom, especially during the second half of the night
- Increase your risk for parasomnias including sleepwalking and sleep eating
Sleep disruption from alcohol also can contribute to next-day fatigue, irritability, and difficulty concentrating. To avoid frequently interrupted sleep and an exhausted, dehydrated morning, follow these tips:
- Allow three to four hours between drinking and bedtime. If you have a nightcap right before bed, you may not sleep very deeply because as alcohol starts to metabolize, the sedative effect wears off.
- Stay hydrated and drink water. Try and drink two glasses of water for every alcoholic drink. This will help your system flush out the alcohol.
- Avoid bubbly drinks. Bubbles can cause bloating and gas, so consider avoiding fizzy and carbonated drinks.
- Eat a light snack before bed. Food delays how quickly you absorb alcohol, which can help lower your blood alcohol content (BAC).
Rupp, T. L., et al. (2020) Evening alcohol suppresses salivary melatonin in young adults. PubMed. doi.org/10.1080/07420520701420675.