You’ve had a long day, and you’re feeling a little stressed out. Sound familiar?
There’s work, family matters, finances, and so many other things to worry about…like your health during a global pandemic.
How do your wind down and relax at the end of the day?
For at least 20 percent of adults, it’s a glass of wine or cold beer before bed.1
And it’s a combination that doesn’t really mix well to help you get your Zzzs.
Sleepy…But Not for Long
When you cap off the night with alcohol, you’ll feel sleepy at first. Alcohol is a depressant that slows the central nervous system and certain brain activities. Drink your favorite sleep elixir, and you start to feel tired, and drift off to dreamland.
Sounds like a good plan to get to sleep, right? Not exactly. Alcohol interferes with a good night’s sleep in several ways:
- Circadian rhythm short circuit
Your body gets used to familiar sleep patterns and falling asleep at the same time. And you may naturally be an early-to-bed kind of person or a night owl. Alcohol interferes with your body’s circadian rhythm, and artificially helps to get to sleep. But people who drink alcohol before bed, frequently wake up in the middle of the night.
- REM sleep disturbances
Alcohol also interferes with REM sleep (rapid eye movement). REM sleep is a natural part of the sleep cycle that can help reduce stress, prevent mood-related disorders, and provide protective health benefits.2Alcohol commonly interrupts or blocks REM sleep, and it’s why some people feel tired or groggy when waking up after drinking.
- Breathing problems
You might drink alcohol before bed because it helps you relax. But guess what? It signals your brain and body to relax everything. If you’re drink alcohol before bed, you’re more likely to snore.You’re also more likely to experience sleep apnea (you stop breathing for a few seconds at a time), because your throat muscles are so relaxed. It’s a risk factor for high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, and other health problems.3
- More bathroom breaks
Here’s another way alcohol and sleep don’t mix. Alcohol is a diuretic. Have a drink before bed, and your bladder is more likely to be active during the night. And that means more trips to the bathroom, and less sleep.
Sleep Habits for Better Health
- Create a bedtime routine.
- Go to bed at the same time every night, even on weekends.
- Avoid eating a large meal right before bed.
- Turn off all electronic screens 1-2 hours before bed.
- Don’t drink alcohol or caffeine in the afternoon or evening.
- Do something relaxing 1-2 hours before bed like read a book, listen to soothing music, or take a hot bath.
But what about all those studies that suggest a little alcohol, like red wine, might actually be good for you?
Researchers have found that 1-2 glasses of red wine per day may help prevent chronic health problems like heart disease, depression, certain types of cancer, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity.4 But not before bedtime.
If you do drink, follow these guidelines:
- Men: No more than 2 drinks per day.
- Women: No more than 1 drink per day. Zero if pregnant.
- Seniors: No more than 1 drink per day for people over age 65.
- A standard drink is: 12 ounces of beer or wine cooler, 5 ounces of wine, or 1-1/2 ounces of distilled spirits.
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