The UK government has issued guidelines on alcohol and has cut recommended drinking limits to say there is no such thing as a safe level of drinking. Research by Silentnight shows a link between drinking and our sleep.
We have conducted some further research, in collaboration with Leeds University sleep expert, Dr Anna Weighall who warns us of the nation's bedtime habits when it comes to drinking.
Research by Leeds University, in conjunction with Silentnight shows 38% of people admit to drinking alcohol at least once a week to aid their sleep, with almost 1 in 10 doing this regularly.
The research also found that drinking to help with sleep is more common in those who work longer hours and report high levels of job stress. Lab-based studies show that consuming alcohol impairs sleep quality, most likely because it affects the regulation of blood glucose during the night, so drinking will only serve to make sleep problems worse for people who can't sleep.
Dr Nerina, our resident sleep expert, says "For centuries, humans have relied on alcohol as a relaxant to ease our passage into sleep. I enjoy a glass of wine as much the next person but from a psychological perspective any alcohol will effect your sleep."
Drinking close to bedtime interferes a number of normal sleep processes. The Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep stage is missed as you go straight into a deep sleep. As the alcohol wears off you will return to REM sleep making it much easier to wake up, meaning you often rouse after only a few hours sleep feeling exhausted.
Apart from low quality of sleep there are other issues. How to stop snoring? Alcohol makes you more likely to snore loudly as it relaxes the muscles in the body including the tissue in your throat, mouth and nose, stopping the air flowing smoothly; making it more likely to vibrate and therefore snore. Also if you drink a lot, you may have to get up in the night to go to the toilet. And it's not just the liquid you've drunk that you'll be getting rid of, alcohol is a diuretic, which means it encourages the body to lose extra fluid though sweat too, making you dehydrated.
For anyone with ongoing issues sleeping, such as insomnia, alcohol is best to be completely avoided before bed advises Dr Nerina, "If your insomnia has become severe and you are trying to rebuild your connection with sleep, it would be advisable to steer clear of alcohol until the improvements to your sleep have become well established."
The advice from drinkaware.co.uk is if you are drinking, try and avoid it too close to bedtime. Give your body time to process the alcohol before sleep. On average it takes an hour per unit.