Healthy living

Snooze and booze

Snooze and booze They really don't mix!

When it comes to sleep, alcohol gets great PR! Most people know that drinking caffeine last thing at night may keep them awake, but the same cannot be said about alcohol.

In a government survey carried out earlier this year, 58% of those questioned were unaware that drinking above the daily guidelines can lead to problems sleeping. In fact, alcohol along with caffeine and nicotine is a major sleep disruptor.

As we said, alcohol has good PR! Part of the reason for this is that alcohol can help you fall asleep faster. It does this by suppressing the production of adrenaline which keeps you alert. However, within hours the body tries to counteract this effect by producing more, causing you to wake up or sleep poorly.

Alcohol is also a diuretic, and encourages the body to excrete fluid. So you may have to visit the loo during the night.

Alcohol has also been shown to interfere with the normal sleep cycle. People experience two types of sleep - rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, where the brain is at its most active and you dream, and non-REM sleep, when the brain "switches off" and you fall into a deep sleep.

Alcohol before bed can cause you to fall straight into a deep sleep, only entering REM sleep once it has been metabolised by the body. As you wake more easily from REM sleep, many drinkers wake early in the morning feeling un-refreshed. We need both types of sleep, in the correct amounts.

Even drinking at "Happy Hour" can affect the normal sleep cycle up to six hours later.

If you are trying for a good night's sleep, stick to the daily recommended limits, or cut back altogether.

The daily recommended amounts:

  • Men should not regularly drink more than 3-4 units of alcohol a day
  • Women should not regularly drink more than 2-3 units of alcohol a day

This article was published on Wed 7 October 2009

Image © Ernst Fretz -

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