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Enjoying a nightcap as a means to unwind after a long day at work or a drink right before bed may help you fall asleep faster but it is not the key to a good night’s sleep. As a matter of fact, alcohol actually causes you to receive less sleep and feel less rested. This is because alcohol increases non-REM sleep and decreases REM sleep, disrupting the sleep cycle. REM sleep is the stage of sleep in which most dreams occur and also believed to be a restorative stage of sleep. We enter REM approximately 90 minutes into our sleep. Interruptions in REM sleep, as a result of alcohol, may cause drowsiness and poor concentration throughout the following day.
There are also some risk factors with using alcohol as a sleep aid. While alcohol can cause the rapid induction of sleep, the body metabolizes alcohol quickly. This can cause a person that uses alcohol as a sleep aid to suffer from withdrawal symptoms in the middle of the night; symptoms such as shallow sleep, nightmares or multiple awakenings. These types of disruptions are detrimental to a sound nights sleep and your overall health.
Alcohol may not only cause sleep disruptions but also is often linked to those with sleep disorders using alcohol as a means for relief. For example, People that suffer from insomnia often use alcohol to get to sleep only to end up fueling insomnia or a restless nights sleep. Drinking prior to bed as a means to help one fall asleep heightens the risk of developing alcohol dependency. It is also believed that alcohol can increase the severity of sleep apnea, causing snoring and even inducing apnea, where breathing is obstructed or stops during sleep.
As you can see, alcohol is clearly not an appropriate sleep aid. As a matter of fact, the sleepy truth: Alcohol inhibits a healthy nights sleep. For more tips on improving your sleep, check out the sleep tips page.