After-work drinks in the sunshine: are they a sleep menace?
Can alcohol have an affect on my sleep?
As summer approaches and the weather gets warmer, we may be more tempted to head for the beer garden after work for a quick drink with our colleagues before heading home.
Although many of us might see an alcoholic drink in the evening as a reward for getting through a hard day, we probably don’t realise how much it affects our sleep patterns.
Studies show that consuming alcohol impairs sleep quality, and this is because it affects the regulation of blood glucose throughout the night, which means that sleep problems you may already be suffering with could be made worse by alcohol.
That said, so many of us continue to drink alcohol thinking it will actually aid our sleep. In fact, 38% of Brits admit to drinking for this reason at least once a week, with almost one in 10 doing it three or more times a week on average, according to research by Silentnight and the University of Leeds.
Silentnight’s resident sleep expert, Dr Nerina, believes that many of us don’t realise the implications having just one or two drinks can have on our sleep.
Commenting on the topic, she said: “For centuries, humans have relied on alcohol as a relaxant to ease our passage into sleep. I enjoy a glass of wine myself, but from a psychological perspective, any alcohol will affect your sleep.
“For anyone with ongoing sleep problems such as insomnia, it’s best to completely avoid alcohol before bed. If you are trying to rebuild your connection with sleep, I would advise steering clear of alcohol until the improvements to your sleep have become well established.”
Silentnight’s study also found that drinking to aid sleep is more common with those who work longer hours and report higher levels of job-related stress.
The direct effect of alcohol on sleep
- The REM stage
Drinking close to bedtime interferes with a number of sleep processes, meaning your sleep pattern can be disrupted. The Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep stage is missed as you go straight into a deep sleep, and as the alcohol begins to wear off, you will return to REM sleep which makes it much easier to wake up. This explains why you often rouse feeling exhausted after just a few hours of sleep.
Alcohol is also known to make people more likely to snore loudly as it relaxes muscles in your body such as the tissue in your throat, mouth and nose.
- Waking up for the toilet
If you drink a lot, you may also find that you have to get up throughout the night to go to the toilet. But in doing this, it’s not just the liquid you’ve drunk that you’re getting rid of – alcohol is a diuretic, which means it will also encourage the body to get rid of extra fluid through sweat too. This can make you dehydrated – which of course, is one of the main reasons we get a hangover.
Do the lighter evenings make you more tempted to head straight to the pub? Let us know on our social pages.