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ALCOHOL AND SLEEP



It’s a Monday and we all hope for a productive week ahead. The days pass by and we look forward to the weekends. On Fridays, many of us get into TGIF mode and hit the pub with our friends and colleagues. We think that we can sleep through Saturday and Sunday and thus wake up fresh for our next week. But is that so? Read on to know how alcohol affects our sleep and our body.


Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that causes brain activity to slow down. Alcohol has sedative effects that can induce feelings of relaxation and sleepiness. In fact, a lot of people have the myth that alcohol helps in sleeping. But in reality, the consumption of alcohol especially in excess has been linked to poor sleep quality and duration. People who regularly take alcohol are found to commonly experience insomnia symptoms.


But, how exactly does alcohol affect our sleep? To understand that, we should first understand sleep stages.


Our sleep is classified into various sleep stages. After we fall asleep, we first experience what is known as light sleep. This is the body’s entry point into other stages of sleep – largely classified into Deep Sleep and REM (Rapid Eye Movement) Sleep. These stages come in cycles with duration ranging from a couple of minutes to more than an hour. Both Deep Sleep and REM Sleep have their own important functions and hence, we should attain an adequate amount of Deep Sleep and REM Sleep each night.


Drinking alcohol before bed can add to the suppression of REM sleep. Since alcohol is a sedative, sleep onset is often shorter for drinkers and some fall into a deep sleep rather quickly. As the body processes alcohol, it produces chemical by-products known as aldehydes and ketones which can affect your brain’s ability to generate REM sleep. This decreases overall sleep quality, which can result in shorter sleep duration and more sleep disruptions. In addition, one of the major functions of REM Sleep – to aid in memory integration and association also gets affected.


Studies have shown that alcohol use can also exacerbate the symptoms of sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a disorder characterized by abnormal breathing and temporary loss of breath during sleep.


So, how much alcohol is good enough? And when can one consume it?


Well, sadly, there is no minimum amount of alcohol that helps sleep or that has no effect on sleep. So, we’ll just say that ‘the lesser the better.’


Even with very little alcohol, it’s important to focus on the time of consumption. You should give enough time for the body, particularly your liver and kidneys to process and excrete ethanol from the body. And studies say that it takes approximately 4 hours for the body to do that.


So the next time you plan for a late-night drinking party, it could be a bit wise to advance its timings and to keep a check on the quantity of alcohol consumed. It will not only be light on your pocket but you will also have a better, peaceful sleep.





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