Will reducing my alcohol intake help me sleep better?
Now that summer is well and truly over and the autumnal chills are upon us, ‘going sober for October’ is a topic of conversation for many.
For lots of us, October is a month for ditching the booze and staying sober, but while most might decide to ‘go sober’ to raise money for charity, others might choose to stay away from the alcohol to reap the health benefits – particularly in relation to sleep.
It’s no secret that alcoholic drinks in the evening are often seen as a reward for getting through a particularly hard day, but we might not always realise how much drinking affects our sleep.
Once inside our bodies, alcohol affects the regulation of blood glucose throughout the night, which can have disastrous implications for the quality of our sleep.
This is particularly bad news if you are already suffering with sleep problems – as that beer or glass of wine you think might be helping you nod off, could actually be making things worse.
However despite this, so many of us continue to drink alcohol thinking it will actually aid our sleep. In fact, 38 per cent 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.
The research also found that drinking to aid sleep is more common with those who work longer hours and report higher levels of job-related stress.
Silentnight’s resident sleep expert, Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, has years of experience helping people whose sleep has been negatively impacted by alcohol, and believes many of us are simply unaware of the implications having just one or two drinks in the evening can have on our sleep.
The effects 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 the 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 is one of the main causes of a hangover.
We all know how much harder it can be to get out of bed in the morning at this time of year, and you might find that drinking too much alcohol the night before makes it even harder.
Commenting further on the topic, Dr Nerina said: “From a psychological perspective, any alcohol is bound to affect your sleep, and particularly if you have ongoing sleep problems such as insomnia.
“If you are trying to rebuild your connection with sleep, the best thing to do is steer clear of alcohol until the improvements to your sleep have become well established.”
Have you noticed an improvement in your sleep after ditching the booze? Or are you going sober for October to see if it works?
Get in touch on our social media pages and let us know.