Many people think they need an alcoholic drink in order to sleep better. Whilst it may be true that drinking will get you off to sleep quicker, unfortunately, the quality of your sleep will be much worse overall.
When alcohol is consumed close to bedtime, we can often go straight into a deep sleep but this often results in missing out on the usual first stage of sleep, called rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. In the course of a night, we should experience six to seven cycles of REM sleep, which leaves us feeling refreshed. However, if you’ve been drinking you’ll typically have only one to two, meaning you can wake up feeling exhausted, lacking energy and craving more sleep.
Because alcohol is a diuretic (which encourages the body to lose extra fluid), if you drink a lot you may have to get up during the night to go to the toilet. In addition, drinking alcohol relaxes the muscles in your body, including those in your throat, mouth and nose which often results in snoring.
With all things considered alcohol can be very significant in the quality of your sleep. Drinking can often equate to a restless night’s sleep which will impact on concentration, motor skills and memory the following day all of which can increase the risk of accidents. Furthermore, a person may not even be able to recognise the extent of sleep disturbance that occurs under these circumstances, increasing the danger that sleepiness and alcohol consumption will have during the waking day.
Some things to try if you want to sleep soundly and wake up feeling fresh:
- Try to avoid alcohol too close to bedtime
- Give your body time to process the alcohol you’ve drunk before you try to sleep (1 hour per unit)
- Stay away from caffeine and alcohol late in the evening. Try a hot, milky or herbal drink instead
- Make sure your bedroom is cool and uncluttered, and also that your bed is comfortable
- Try to get in at least 30 minutes of physical exercise to relieve the day’s stresses and strains
- List all of the things you need to do for the next day. That way they won’t be going round in your head when you are trying to get to sleep