How does alcohol affect sleep?

A glass of red wine in the evening is a proven aid to falling asleep, but 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 sleep restfully 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 sleep
  5. Conclusion

1. Alcohol before bed

A cool beer after work or a relaxing glass of wine in the evening is 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 against problems falling asleep. In fact, consuming alcohol before going to bed can help you fall asleep more quickly - but this is usually followed by numerous negative effects that disrupt healthy sleep and mean that we fall asleep more quickly but wake up with less rest.

2. The effect of alcohol on the body

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

smartsleep Schlafmagazin Alkoholkonzentration im Blut schadet dem Schlaf

After about 30 to 60 minutes, the alcohol concentration in our blood is at its highest. The alcohol is quickly distributed throughout the bloodstream and eventually throughout the body's water, affecting almost all tissues, organs and muscles in our body. It has a particularly strong effect on the well-supplied brain, influencing the hormonal 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 poison 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, as 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, brain and psyche relax. This helps to reduce stress in the evening and to calm down, making it easier to fall asleep. However, as soon as alcohol is broken down, the effect quickly turns into the opposite. The heart rate increases, stress reactions occur in the body and our sleep becomes easier. We then wake up frequently, which repeatedly disrupts our sleep and also shortens the overall length of sleep.

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Alcohol not only prevents us from sleeping through the night, but also has a direct influence on our sleep structure and the individual sleep phases. Various studies show that sleep is more fragmented overall after consuming alcohol, we wake up more often and therefore spend less time in restful deep sleep. By measuring brain activity during sleep, researchers were also able to determine that subjects also had increased activity in the front areas of the brain 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 and lead to difficulty concentrating the next day.

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

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

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

Overall, 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 with which you can make your alcohol consumption more sleep-friendly and still sleep restfully in the evening.

#1 Less is more

Try to keep your consumption within reasonable limits and only drink a small amount at a time. Men are recommended not to exceed a daily amount of two bottles of beer (0.3 liters) or two glasses of wine (0.125 liters). About half 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 no longer 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 plenty of water

Carbonated drinks, high alcohol content 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 therefore broken down more slowly. In this way you can avoid a sudden, very high concentration of alcohol in the blood and weaken the harmful effects somewhat. Water also helps to stimulate metabolism and blood flow, thereby 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 as it is metabolized it has an activating and harmful effect on the body and mind.
  • Alcohol can make it easier to fall asleep in the short term by calming the nervous system and relaxing the muscles.
  • Alcohol promotes difficulty sleeping through the night and has negative effects on deep and REM sleep, which damages the quality of sleep.
  • If you don't want to go without, you should only consume a small amount of alcohol up to approx. Consume 4 to 6 hours before bedtime.

Best regards!

smartsleep Schlafmagazin Autorin Alisia

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