How Alcohol Really Messes Up Your Sleep

At the end of the working week, many of us look forward to the weekend and having a few drink with friends. Then Monday comes around and we feel completely exhausted and lacking motivation for the week ahead.

Most of us think we get more sleep after a night of drinking, either because we sleep longer or feel we’ve had a deeper sleep than usual. However, the relationship between alcohol and sleep is far from a happy one.

When we drink, alcohol acts as a stimulant and floods the brain with happy hormones called endorphins. These feel-good chemicals make us more talkative, confident and more sociable. A few hours later the buzz we get from drinking wears off and the alcohol starts to do the opposite and act as a sedative. This is what causes us to feel drowsy and in more dangerous circumstances, can lead to loss of consciousness.

So, if alcohol reduces the time it takes us to fall asleep and increases the depth of our sleep, why do we feel so worse for wear the next day or two after?

It comes down to us having a combination of both good and bad sleep throughout the night. Although the first half of the night seems great, this is offset by increased sleep disturbance that follows later into the night.

There are a number of disturbance that can wake us during the night and effect our sleep following a night drinking, including:


Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Sleep

When we fall straight into a deep sleep following a night of drinking alcohol, we miss out on the usual first stage of sleep known as rapid eye movement (REM). Over the course of a normal night we usually have six to seven cycles of REM sleep, which is what leave us feeling refreshed the next day. However, after we’ve been drinking, we typically get just one to two cycles, which ultimately leave us feeling exhausted.


More Frequent Trips To The Toilet

When we drink more than usual, we often get up in the night to go to the toilet, a lot. Although most of us think it’s simply because we’ve drank more liquid than usual and need to get rid of it, it’s actually because alcohol is a diuretic. This means alcohol encourages our bodies to lose more fluid than we take in. In fact, for every 1g of alcohol consumed, urine excretion increase by 10ml! As we lose so much liquid during the course of the night, we then become hydrated. This is also known as “hungover”…

So, the next time you want to enjoy a drink or two, try to avoid doing so too close to bedtime and give your body time to process what you’ve drunk before trying to sleep. Also, don’t forget to top up on H20 throughout the night to help you out the next day.