Alcoholic beverages have been around since the beginning of civilization and have been used for religious rituals, medicine, and recreational purposes. In our modern age nowadays, alcohol has become a widely accepted part of social gatherings and celebrations.
Many people believe alcohol can help them feel sleepy because it is a depressant. It can slow down your brain activity and make you feel relaxed. Although there is some truth to it, excessive drinking can be detrimental to health. Besides increasing the risk of accidents and injury, it also has a negative effect on sleep patterns, both in terms of quality and quantity.
Having a healthy sleep pattern is essential to our overall wellness. It helps improve focus, concentration, memory, heart health, the immune system, and many more. Unfortunately, when there is too much alcohol consumption more than the suggested amount, it can affect the REM stage of sleep, leading to a variety of issues.
What Is REM?
REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep refers to a stage of sleep in which dreaming occurs. It is characterized by rapid, random movement of the eyes, which can be seen by an observer. During REM sleep, brain activity increases, heart rate and breathing become more irregular, and muscles become more relaxed. REM sleep is an important stage for memory consolidation and learning.
When REM is not achieved during sleep, experiencing daytime sleepiness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and irritability may occur. Moreso if there is long-term sleep deprivation, which can lead to serious health issues, including depression, heart disease, and a weakened immune system.
Effects Of Drinking Alcohol On Falling Asleep
Drinking alcohol may make you feel sleepy, but it can become detrimental to your sleep quality. Below are some negative effects of alcohol on sleep patterns:
- It disrupts the natural sleep cycle and can cause people to wake up multiple times during the night, disrupting the normal circadian rhythm.
- According to one 2014 study published in the Handbook of Clinical Neurology, It suppresses REM sleep, which is the most restorative stage of the sleep cycle, making it more difficult to feel rested in the morning.
- It can lead to increased snoring and can worsen symptoms of sleep apnea and other sleep problems such as insomnia and restless leg syndrome.
- It can increase the risk of developing new sleep disorders, such as sleepwalking, night terrors, and sleep-related eating disorders.
Establishing A Healthy Sleep Pattern
If you are having trouble achieving REM sleep, there are a couple of things you can do to help you achieve and establish a healthy sleeping habit. Below are some self-help practices to make dozing off easier, resulting in healthier and restful sleep.
Use White Noise Apps
Using sleep aid apps can help you relax the mind and body, allowing for a deeper sleep. The best white noise apps, which are often included in sleep sound machine apps, along with calming music or ambient sounds, can help mask distractions and help you fall asleep more quickly.
Avoid Drinking Alcohol Close To Bedtime
Alcohol might initially help you fall asleep faster but can disrupt your sleep later in the night. The recommended daily amount of alcohol intake is no more than two drinks for men and a maximum of one drink for women. Keeping your alcohol intake to a minimum and not drinking close to bedtime can prevent frequent awakenings, lighter sleep, and a decrease in REM sleep.
Establish A Relaxing Bedtime Routine
A soothing routine before bed may help relax your body and mind, making it easier to fall asleep. Examples of these are taking a warm bath, drinking a cup of herbal tea or warm milk, or doing some light stretching while listening to top meditation apps.
While there is truth in the claim that alcohol may make you sleepy, it can negatively affect sleep patterns when taken more than the recommended amount. Besides the number of health problems it can cause, alcohol can disrupt the natural sleep cycle and suppress REM sleep, which is the most vital stage of the sleep cycle. To get a good night’s rest, it’s best to limit alcohol consumption and establish a healthy sleeping routine using best practices.