How Alcohol Affects Sleep Quality

How Alcohol Affects Sleep

How Alcohol Affects Sleep

Have you ever wondered why you wake up feeling like a zombie after a night of drinking? Turns out, alcohol affects sleep in a massive way. Sure, it might knock you out initially, but it wreaks havoc on your natural sleep cycle, leaving you with a lousy night of rest. Centered Recovery Programs help our clients to learn in-depth about how important good quality sleep is on the path to recovery. In this article, let’s dive into how alcohol affects your sleep and why it’s crucial to be mindful of your drinking habits.

The Stages of Sleep

Okay, here’s the scoop: when we sleep, our snooze time is divided into two main types—rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. NREM sleep has three stages, with the third stage being the deepest and most rejuvenating. REM sleep, on the other hand, is where the magic happens—dreams, brain activity, the whole shebang.

Stage N1

This is a light sleep phase when we are just starting to fall asleep. It lasts only a few minutes. So, this means that the brain waves begin to slow down, and you may feel slight muscle jerks as your body begins to rest.

Stage N2

Our sleep becomes deeper in this stage, and we spend most of our sleeping time here. Your brain waves will continue to slow down, and your body temperature starts to drop. Sometimes, dreams may begin to occur, but they are not as vivid as in REM sleep.

Stage N3

Also known as deep sleep or slow-wave sleep, this is the most restorative stage. Now, very slow brain waves are produced, and the body repairs and regrows tissues. Also, energy is built up and the immune system is strengthened.

REM sleep

REM is a special stage of sleep that occurs about 90 minutes after falling asleep. The brain becomes highly active, almost as active as when we are awake. Rapid Eye Movement (REM) occurs with eyes moving rapidly behind closed eyelids. Most dreaming happens during REM sleep, allowing the brain to process emotions and memories. During this stage, your muscles are temporarily paralyzed to prevent acting out dreams, which is so fascinating!

Throughout the night, the sleep cycle repeats, with REM sleep becoming longer and non-REM sleep becoming shorter. This allows our body and brain to rest, repair, and prepare for the next day.

How Does Alcohol Impact Sleep

Now, when you’ve been drinking, alcohol acts like a sedative, making you fall asleep faster. But here’s the catch—your sleep quality takes a nosedive as the night goes on. Alcohol throws a wrench in your sleep stages, preventing you from reaching the deep stages of NREM sleep. Instead, you end up with fragmented, superficial sleep that leaves you feeling like a deflated balloon in the morning. Since alcohol consumption is commonly linked to insomnia, you may feel these sleepiness symptoms affecting you for days to come as your body tries to compensate for the sleep that it needs.

But wait, there’s more! Alcohol also messes with your REM sleep, which is vital for your brain to function properly and store memories.  This can leave you feeling mentally foggy the next day and hinder your ability to remember things. And get this—alcohol can trigger wild, sometimes unsettling dreams when you drink it too close to bedtime. On top of that, alcohol can contribute to snoring and sleep apnea, adding more disruptions to your sleep patterns and making things even worse.

The Road to Better Sleep Quality

Now, let’s get real and talk about some strategies to help you sleep better.

  • Wind down like a pro: Establish a relaxing routine before bed to signal to your body that it’s time to sleep. Try things like reading a book, taking a warm bath, or practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing. Whatever floats your sleepy boat!
  • Create a sleep haven: Make your bedroom a sleep-friendly oasis. Keep it cool, dark, and quiet. Consider using earplugs or an eye mask to block out any pesky distractions that could ruin your slumber.
  • Watch your caffeine intake: We all love our caffeine, but it’s a sneaky stimulant that messes with sleep. Avoid downing caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea, or soda in the evening—they’ll make it harder for you to doze off.
  • Get moving: Participating in some form of physical activity throughout the day will help improve your sleep at the end of the day. Whether you go for a walk around your neighborhood, hit the gym and lift weights, or take a yoga class, moving is good for the body. Go get those steps in!
  • Embrace good sleep habits: Stick to a consistent sleep schedule, aiming for the recommended 7-9 hours of rest each night. Ditch those electronic devices, like your phone or tablet, at least an hour before bed—they emit blue light that messes with your sleep hormone, melatonin.

By understanding how alcohol messes with your sleep and adopting healthy sleep habits, you’ll give your body and mind the rest they crave. Prioritize that sweet, rejuvenating slumber, and wake up feeling refreshed, recharged, and ready to conquer the world! If you feel as though your sleep quality has been affected by your alcohol use and you are needing support, contact Centered Recovery Programs in Roswell today at 800.556.2966!

Written by Jennifer Lopes, BS Psy