How does alcohol affect sleep?

A glass of red wine in the evening is a proven sleep aid, although alcohol, especially in large quantities, has numerous negative effects on sleep and health. Here you can find out exactly how alcohol affects our sleep and what you can do to get a restful sleep despite drinking alcohol.

Table of Contents

  1. Alcohol before bed
  2. The effects of alcohol on the body
  3. The effect of alcohol on sleep
  4. Tips for drinking alcohol before bed
  5. Conclusion

1. Alcohol before bed

A cool beer after work or a relaxing glass of wine in the evening are part of everyday life for many people. Moderate alcohol consumption is said to have a positive effect on cardiovascular health and is considered an effective remedy for problems falling asleep. In fact, drinking alcohol before going to bed can help you fall asleep faster - but then there are usually numerous negative effects that disrupt healthy sleep and mean that we fall asleep faster but wake up less rested.

2. The effects of alcohol on the body

Alcohol is a cell toxin that initially has a calming effect, but in large quantities causes great damage to our brain and numerous other organs. Alcohol is usually absorbed through the mucous membranes and digestion and thus enters the bloodstream until it is slowly broken down in the liver. This produces many harmful degradation products, for example acetaldehyde, which damages cells and is classified as carcinogenic, which is further processed into acetic acid and finally excreted by the body as carbon dioxide and water.

smartsleep Schlafmagazin Alkoholkonzentration im Blut schadet dem Schlaf

After about 30 to 60 minutes, the concentration of alcohol in our blood is at its highest. The alcohol is rapidly distributed in the bloodstream and eventually throughout the body water, causing it to affect almost every tissue, organ and muscle in our body. It has a particularly strong effect on the brain, which is well supplied with blood, where it influences the hormone balance and the function of the brain cells by, among other things, inhibiting the transmission of stimuli and the nervous system. The complex breakdown of the toxin in the liver also promotes the production of fatty acids, which can lead to liver damage in the long term.

3. The effect of alcohol on sleep

It is no coincidence that an alcoholic nightcap before going to bed is supposed to promote sleep, because alcohol initially has a calming and "sedating" effect on the body. It slows down brain and nerve activity, lowers the heart rate and promotes the production of certain messenger substances (e.g. B Gamma-aminobutyric acid GABA) so that the muscles, the brain and the psyche relax. This helps to reduce stress and calm down in the evening, making it easier to fall asleep. But as soon as alcohol is broken down, the effect quickly reverses. The heart rate increases, the body reacts to stress and our sleep becomes easier. Then we wake up frequently, which disturbs our sleep again and again and also shortens the overall sleep duration.

smartsleep Schlafmagazin Alkohol führt zu Durchschlafstörungen und macht wach

Alcohol not only prevents sleeping through the night, but also has a direct influence on our sleep structure and the individual sleep phases. Various studies show that sleep after drinking alcohol is more fragmented overall, we wake up more often and therefore spend less time in restful deep sleep. Researchers were also able to determine by measuring brain activity during sleep that test subjects also had increased activity in the front brain areas after consuming alcohol. This means that the body and mind cannot regenerate optimally and the quality of sleep decreases. In addition, after increased alcohol consumption, REM sleep is also suppressed, which can impair our memory performance and lead to difficulties concentrating the next day.

And that's not all! Alcohol has a relaxing effect on the muscles, which also impairs breathing during sleep and promotes snoring or sleep apnea. In addition, the urge to urinate and thirst is increased and we sweat more, which is also not sleep-promoting.

smartsleep Schlafmagazin Alkohol und Schlaf Starker Durst und Harndrang in der Nacht

4. Tips for a good night's sleep despite drinking

All in all, alcohol should of course not be consumed regularly and only in moderation. In principle, there is nothing wrong with a delicious aperitif or a glass of wine in the evening. That's why we have a few tips that you can use to make your alcohol consumption more sleep-friendly and still get a good night's sleep.

#1 Less is more

Try to keep your consumption within reason and only drink a small amount at a time. Men are advised not to exceed a daily amount of two bottles of beer (0.3 liters) or two glasses of wine (0.125 liters). About half that applies to women.

#2 Pay attention to the timing

About 30 to 60 minutes after drinking, the alcohol concentration in our blood is at its highest and then decreases continuously. You should therefore not drink alcohol in the last 4 to 6 hours before going to bed, so that your body has enough time to process and eliminate the cell toxin and harmful breakdown products.

#3 Eat enough & drink lots of water

Fizzy drinks, high levels of alcohol, and drinking "on an empty stomach" cause the alcohol to enter the bloodstream more quickly. With a full stomach, on the other hand, the cell toxin is distributed more slowly in the body and is accordingly broken down more slowly. In this way you can avoid a sudden very high concentration of alcohol in the blood and reduce the harmful effects somewhat. Water also helps boost metabolism and blood flow, accelerating the breakdown and removal of harmful substances.

5. Conclusion

  • Alcohol is a cell toxin that is broken down in the liver and initially has a calming effect, but has an activating and harmful effect on body and mind as the metabolism progresses.
  • Alcohol can temporarily make it easier to fall asleep by calming the nervous system and relaxing the muscles.
  • Alcohol promotes problems sleeping through the night and has negative effects on deep and REM sleep, which impairs sleep quality.
  • If you don't want to do without, you should only drink a small amount of alcohol up to approx. Consume 4 to 6 hours before bedtime.


smartsleep Schlafmagazin Autorin Alisia

Leave a comment

All comments are reviewed prior to publication