How Alcohol Affects Sleep Long-Term
If you had to guess how alcohol affects sleep, would you imagine that something that makes you drowsy is actually ruining your good night’s rest? You may have already felt the effects of imbibing too close to bedtime. It likely knocked you out for a while but then made you restless during the latter part of your sleep cycle. That’s because alcohol is a big sleep disruptor and not a sleep aid.
What Happens During An Average Sleep Cycle
Scientists didn’t actively begin studying sleep until the 1920s. Before that, they assumed the brain was in a static state during sleep. When researchers began using electroencephalogram (EEG) testing in 1929, they discovered that brain activity varied during different phases of a typical sleep cycle.
In short, the first stages of sleep are light and there’s a gradual move to a deeper state. After a period of deep sleep - also called slow-wave or delta sleep - the brain cycles into a longer period of Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep that’s thought to aid in memory formation and storage, as well as emotional processing.
What Happens When You Drink Alcohol Before Sleeping
Alcohol affects sleep throughout the entire cycle - most notably at the beginning when its sedative effect works to induce sleep. But even a moderate amount of alcohol can disrupt the individual sleep stages. It may bring on a deeper delta state, which can then interfere with the restorative REM state that occurs later, and result in poor sleep quality and fatigue the next day. Alcohol can also disrupt circadian functioning, which can affect immunity, sexual drive, cognitive functions, and mood.
Alcohol’s disruptive effects can lead to more bathroom visits during the second half of the night, an increased risk of sleepwalking and sleep-eating, breathing problems (like snoring), and could aggravate disorders like insomnia and sleep apnea. Alcohol can also elevate a chemical called adenosine, which can lead to falling asleep at times when you should be awake, thereby throwing off your natural sleep/wake cycle.
Why Are You Drinking Before Bed?
If you’re drinking alcohol to help you fall asleep, there may be another reason (besides the ones noted above) to avoid alcohol as a sleep aid: You could build a tolerance to the amount of alcohol required to provide the sedative effect that makes you drowsy.
The broader question is whether you’re using alcohol to help you forget about problems or stressors that are ultimately making it difficult to sleep. It’s worth examining, as you may have developed a potentially dangerous dependence on alcohol. Did you know that in less than 30 minutes, you could learn if you may be dependent on alcohol and also discover the options available for recovery?
SpringBoard Recovery Can Assess Your Needs And Customize Treatment
If you suspect you may be dependent on alcohol, consider a short phone call with SpringBoard Recovery to assess your situation and explore the next steps.
You have options when it comes to treatment approaches, such as outpatient recovery, individual counseling, group counseling, or a structured sober living facility. Together, you and a supportive professional at Springboard Recovery will determine the best treatment plan for you - one that may or may not include an inpatient stay.
Recovery is a lifestyle. It goes beyond simply overcoming physiological dependence. That’s why SpringBoard Recovery offers a holistic approach that goes beyond detox to include therapeutic techniques like yoga, art, meditation, naturopathic counseling, and life coaching.
You Don’t Need To Lose Anymore Sleep
If you suspect you may be relying too heavily on alcohol or using it inappropriately, there’s a team of professionals who wants to guide your long-term recovery. It’s your journey, and SpringBoard Recovery can design the plan that’s best for you. Call or email today.