Drinking excessive alcohol may not just be bad for your sleep
The Effects of Alcohol On Sleep
Alcohol is a depressant. That is, a substance that reduces stimulation and mental / physical activity. In theory, a depressant like alcohol would usually help a person get to sleep and/or sleep more soundly. However, excessive alcohol actually thwarts your ability to get a good night’s sleep. We take a closer look at the effects of alcohol on sleep, and the reasons why alcohol can ruin a good night’s sleep.
1. ALCOHOL IS A DIURETIC.
Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it increases the excretion of fluids from your body via sweat and – more typically – urination. This effect makes it more likely you will have to have to get up multiple times during the night to go to the toilet. Of course, this hurts your chances of deep, truly restful sleep. The diuretic effects of alcohol also leads to a second sleep disruptor… thirst. Your body needs water to replace the lost fluids, and this need for water can cause interrupted sleep as your body tries to tell you it is running low on it’s most important nutrient.
2. ALCOHOL INCREASES SNORING
Drinking excessive alcohol may not just be bad for your sleep. It may also be a bad thing for the person you share the bed with. Snoring is typically caused by the partial blocking of airways, which leads to vibration as we breath in and out. This vibration is what causes the snoring sound. Alcohol can act to relax the muscles around the airways, which can stop air flowing in and out of our lungs as freely as it needs. This will increase the chances you will snore, and snore loudly.
3. ALCOHOL = SUGAR. SUGAR = BAD.
Most alcohols (and common mixers) contain sugar. This has the obvious problems of causing a spike in blood sugar levels if you drink just before bedtime. This spike disrupts sleep, among other things. Excessive sugar also depletes the body of magnesium, a mineral that is critical for muscle function and relaxation. If your magnesium levels are low, you may notice you feel restless, anxious and have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep.
4. ALCOHOL NEEDS TO BE PROCESSED BY YOUR BODY
Your kidneys and liver process alcohol. Depending on how many drinks you have had and when you stopped drinking, your kidneys and liver continue working away at metabolising and processing that alcohol for many hours after you nod off to sleep. This means your organs are working away at a time when they should be reducing activity so they can rest and recover for the next day. This, in turn, causes a number of problems for sleep. When we metabolise a food/drink (including alcohol), an ‘exothermic’ reaction occurs. That is, metabolism gives off heat and raises our body temperature. This can make temperature regulation more difficult and – combined with the sweating and dehydration effect caused by alcohol – results in an overheated, uncomfortable night’s sleep. Furthermore, when we metabolise a food/drink, energy is produced. Does energy production sound like something that is a good idea of a night time when you are trying to sleep?
We have covered the main negative effects of alcohol on sleep, but excessive alcohol consumption in general can have a number of negative effects on your health and mental wellbeing. If you like a drink, we recommend sticking to the Australian Federal guidelines for alcohol consumption to ensure it doesn’t adversely affect your health. These guidelines can be found at http://www.alcohol.gov.au/.