Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Alcohol is Not a Sleep Aid

One of the most important ways to get a good night’s sleep is establishing a healthy sleep routine. When I talk about a sleep routine, I not only encourage good sleep habits, but suggest making healthy lifestyle changes to promote high-quality and quantity of sleep. One healthy life style change is eliminating alcohol right before bedtime. Alcohol is not a sleep aid as it is disruptive and tricky when it comes to sleep. How many of you have a drink or two after a long day of work to help you relax enough to fall asleep easy? Do you wake up during the night after the alcohol wears off? Alcohol causes you to miss out on deep sleep and waking up during the night will affect how you perform the next day.

[caption id="attachment_1593" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Alcohol is Not a Sleep Aid"][/caption]

A sleep and alcohol study was done in Japan with 10 male university students. The students were in good health and divided into three groups. One group went to sleep without drinking any alcohol, the second group was given a small amount of alcohol and the third consumed alcohol for an hour and 40 minutes before bedtime. The groups were monitored for heart rate variability with a polysomnogram. A report of the findings showed that those who drank alcohol fell to sleep quickly but as the night wore on their sleep became shallow and disrupted, compared to those that did not drink. Alcohol increased their heart rate and the more they consumed the more their heart rate increased. The study concluded that the presence of alcohol acted as a stimulant increasing heart rate that kept them from getting their deep, restorative sleep.

Another larger report was recently published and the results supported the findings from this smaller study. In this report, researchers examined the effects of alcohol and sleep among 93 adults in their early to mid 20’s and took into consideration their gender and family history of alcoholism. These participants drank to the point of intoxication and then they were monitored on their quality, depth and duration of sleep. They found that while intoxicated they slept less than they did when they were sober, woke up more frequently during the night, felt sleepier the next day, slept better during the first half of the night and spent less time in REM sleep. Findings showed that differences came to gender, while family history of alcoholism made no difference. Women had more disruptive sleep than men and also showed being more sleep deprived the next day.

Normal sleep occurs in series of cycles, there is light sleep, REM or dream sleep and deep sleep. Each cycle is important to proper functioning during waking hours, especially REM and deep sleep. Alcohol disturbs the rhythms of these cycles, causing us to miss out on the benefits of these sleep cycles. The consequences for those who drink to fall asleep are exactly what they are trying to avoid. The second half of sleep is in the lighter cycle when those who drink usually wake up and have trouble returning to sleep. They wake up hung over and are prone to afternoon sleepiness. The older you get these affects linger days later and many have trouble falling asleep the next night without drinking, thus starting a vicious cycle. The longer the cycle continues the greater the dependence for alcohol is required to fall asleep.

If you suffer from sleep apnea alcohol can cause the muscles to relax more, which will make snoring more frequent. On the other hand, drinking a moderate amount of alcohol can cause the air passages to constrict, which can cause an episode of apnea even for those who don’t have symptoms. Drinking alcohol within 3 to 4 hours of bedtime can increase the effects of sleep apnea. For sleep apnea sufferers drinking alcohol can increase the likelihood of a heart attack, arrhythmia, stroke or sudden death. Consuming enough alcohol to fall asleep should not be taken lightly if you have sleep apnea.

Now if you are healthy this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have a glass of wine with dinner or a beer with your friends after work. But there are some tips that can help prevent alcohol from interfering with sleep. For every alcoholic drink, drink a glass of water. Stop drinking at least three hours before bedtime. Don’t use alcohol as a sleep aid. If you need to relax try other relaxation techniques that can promote healthy sleep.

Relaxation techniques can relieve stress and help you to fall asleep and stay asleep. Try reading, gentle yoga stretches or listening to soft music. Keep the lights low to promote the natural production of melatonin. Abdominal breathing which is deep and full can actually help part of the nervous system that controls relaxation. Breathe in through your nose and out of your mouth then make each exhale a little longer. Progressive muscle relaxation starts with your feet and gradually goes to the top of your head. Tense the muscles as tightly as you can, hold for a count of 10, then relax. Sometimes you can use breathing techniques with progressive muscle relaxation. When you tighten your muscles inhale and hold your breath for the count of 10 then exhale slowly as you relax your muscles.

Remember knowing how alcohol affects your body when you are sleeping is only a temporary effect and not a way to real rest. It is possible to drink your favorite drink in moderation and still protect the quality and quantity of your sleep. Salute!

The content provided in Alcohol is Not a Sleep Aid is for information purposes only, intended to raise the awareness of different solutions for you or your families sleep problems and should not be considered medical advice. For medical diagnosis and treatment, please see your qualified health-care professional.

GLG America Logo

No comments:

Post a Comment