There is no question that a cocktail or a glass of wine is relaxing at the end of a long day. You might even think that drinking alcohol helps you sleep.
While it is true that alcohol has a sedative effect which promotes sleep. What you might not know is that if you drink alcohol to help you sleep, you will not only get less sleep, but the quality of your sleep is significantly diminished.
Alcohol Interrupts Normal Sleep Rhythms
In a report released in 2004 by Science Daily.com, medical researchers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in San Diego, California studied the relationship between alcohol consumption and sleep in order to find out why alcoholics who have quit drinking return to alcohol to help them sleep.
Researchers saw that while the sedative effects of alcohol promote sleep, in the second half of sleep cycles, the brain waves involved in normal sleep rhythms are disrupted, resulting in poor sleep quality . Furthermore, the brain eventually builds up a tolerance to the sedative effects of alcohol creating a need to drink more to have the same effect.
Over time, the brain waves that promote normal, restorative sleep become so disrupted that it takes the brain a considerable amount of time to re-establish normal sleep brain waves. Researchers believe this accounts for why alcoholics tend to return to alcohol after they quit drinking in order to sleep.
Alcohol Disrupts Calcium Channels in the Brain
The mineral calcium is vital for sleep. It helps the brain use the amino acid tryptophan to produce the sleep-inducing substance melatonin. Alcohol not only leeches calcium from the body, but, it disrupts calcium channels located in the thalamus region of the brain which are involved in sleep.
When calcium channels are disrupted, the brain compensates by trying to release more calcium. However, instead of leading to better or deeper sleep, it ultimately results in more sleep disturbances instead.
Alcohol Metabolizes into Sugar Which Disrupts Sleep
Alcohol metabolizes into sugar glucose which directly affects your blood sugar level. During a normal, eight-hour sleep cycle, the rise and fall of blood glucose levels can cause wakefulness and light sleep as the body is working to break down the sugars.
So, not only does this process disrupts the necessary deep, restorative sleep, but, the blood sugar fluctuations during the night leave you feeling drug out and tired the next day.
Long Term use of Alcohol can Lead to Dependence or Addiction
It is important to understand that long term use of alcohol not only disrupts normal sleep, but it can lead to alcohol addiction and dependence. If you do not feel you can moderate your alcohol consumption, seek the help of a physician or medical health professional.
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center (2004, November 5). New Finding About Alcohol And Sleep. ScienceDaily . Retrieved January 26, 2011. http://www.sciencedaily.com / releases/2004/10/041030183411.htm
“Alcohol and Your Sleep” January 26, 2010. Eight Straight.com. January 26, 2011. http://www.eightstraight.com/lifestyle/34-lifestyle/55-alcoholandyoursleep.html
“Insomnia: Studies Confirm Calcium-Magnesium Effect” September 8, 2009. Medical News Today.com January 26, 2011. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/163169.php
“Drink Less for Strong Bones” January 26, 2011. Web MD.com. January 26, 2011. http://www.webmd.com/osteoporosis/features/alcohol
“How Does Alcohol Affect Your Blood Sugar?” January 26, 2011. Medicine Net.com. January 26, 2011. http://www.medicinenet.com/alcohol_and_nutrition/page4.htm