The Effects of Alcohol on Your Sleep
Alcohol has different effects on different people. It can make you sleepy and relaxed, cheerful and upbeat, or agitated and aggressive. Similarly, alcohol has different effects with regards to insomnia. Some people find that it helps to relax and fall asleep easily, others can't fall asleep at all, or others will wake up at night often.
In almost every case, having even couple alcohol drinks before bedtime produces troubled and fragmented sleep.
Your body will produce adrenaline to compensate for the alcohol in your system. Alcohol also makes you thirsty. Both cause you to sleep fitfully or to wake.
It has been shown that alcohol interferes with normal sleep patterns by disrupting neurotransmitters in the brain, which control or regulate sleep. When these neurotransmitters are disrupted, sleep disturbances and insomnia can result.
Small amounts of alcohol can cause early sedation or sleepiness, and it is often used as a sedative. However, the use of alcohol as an effective sedative can be extremely misleading, because the side effects that can result are usually even more harmful and detrimental to the natural sleep cycle, as body is trying to sober and counteract the effects of the alcohol.
Due to the natural elimination of alcohol from the body, arousal and sleep fragmentation can occur and the second half of the sleep period can be drastically interrupted.
Alcohol withdrawal can also be associated with sleep disturbances. Chronic alcoholics usually have quite abnormal sleep patterns. Sleep is fragmented and shallow, often with many awakenings during the night.
In some people alcohol is known to cause sleep apnea (episodes of stopped breathing and violent snoring). Excessive weight makes you even more vulnerable to sleep apnea.
To find out if alcohol negatively affects your sleep, stop drinking it for a week or two and see if it makes the difference.
In many cases it may not be necessary to completely quit drinking. Simply reducing the amount of alcohol that you drink may be sufficient to improve your sleep and curtail the insomnia.
In some cases, you may have to stop drinking for a month or more until you don't feel the effects of alcohol withdrawal. The alcohol withdrawal effects may actually worsen your sleep temporarily, and that may lead you to wrongly believe that alcohol helps you in dealing with sleep problems. You may have frequent awakenings, nervousness and nightmares. Often heavy alcohol users will resume drinking simply to avoid this withdrawal insomnia, perpetuating the vicious cycle.
Most importantly, don't mix alcohol with sleeping pills! This combination aggravates the effects of each other, leads to serious side effects and can be fatal.
If you have sleep problems and can't stop excessive alcohol drinking, seek treatment for your alcohol problem.