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Science Behind Alcohol Affecting Your Sleep

We may be craving alcohol to help cope with stress, boredom, or maybe for some fun. Back in the day, I used to be a party girl – I get it. I fight these urges all the time. 

What has helped me is understanding how alcohol affects my health and my metabolism.  For instance, I know that I sleep poorly if I drink more than one alcoholic drink.  It also negatively affects my memory and motivation the next day.  Does this stop me from drinking?  No, I still enjoy a good cocktail here and there but I am smart with my decisions.

The Science Behind Alcohol Affecting Your Sleep

  1. First, it’s important to note that alcohol is a sedative.  A few cocktails may help you “loosen up” but that’s because alcohol sedates the part of the brain that restrains your behavior and impulses.
  2. You may think it helps you fall asleep but alcohol sedates you, like anestesia.  It’s not a natural sleep!
  3. Alcohol-infused sleep is not continuous therefore it is not restorative.  Most people awaken many times through the night.  For some people, it goes unnoticed and they don’t remember. No matter how your sleep feels, you will wake up feeling exhausted (and probably unmotivated).
  4. Alcohol is one of the most powerful suppressors of REM sleep.  When the body metabolizes alcohol, you produce by products (aldehydes and ketones) that block the brain’s ability to generate REM sleep. Why is this important?  When you are deficient in REM sleep, it will significantly worsen your memory (from that night but also from days before).

There’s a cool study with students testing their memory.  One of the control groups got two full nights of sleep and studied for a test.  They successfully learned the material but on the third night, they got drunk and slept poorly.  Result: 40% of their knowledge they worked so hard to establish was forgotten.

All this information is from the book, Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker PhD.  I recently did some continuing education on this book and I found it very interesting.  I’m sure I’ll be referring to more as we journey together to help you heal your metabolism. 

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