Brief advice bullets: alcohol disrupts sleep

9 Jul

There are some valuable bits of ‘brief advice’ that are more likely to resonate with all risky drinkers who engage. The negative effects of alcohol on sleep is surely one of those because everyone needs sleep and everyone wants to sleep well. I often speak to people who have cut down on their alcohol use, and improved sleep is probably what I hear volunteered most often as a positive outcome.

So whilst many risky drinkers might believe alcohol ‘helps’ them to sleep, they’re unaware the quality of the sleep is affected and so is less regenerating – even if they slept for as long. Alcohol reduces the capacity for deep re-energising sleep because as blood alcohol level declines, the body becomes more alert (known as the “metabolic rebound” effect). There must be something about waking up to go to the toilet too!

A recent study has found that even moderate consumption disrupts sleep. This and the fact that there seemed to be less of an impact on lost sleep time amongst heavier drinkers might negate the value of this particular benefit. Either way, alcohol isn’t good for the deep sleep we need. I know that the best shot I have of feeling fresh and well rested is to have an alcohol-free night – which is why I always aim for that on a school night!

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3 Responses to “Brief advice bullets: alcohol disrupts sleep”

  1. Niamh Fitzgerald August 5, 2012 at 9:54 pm #

    I think this is a key piece of information for folk who are having a ‘nightcap’ to help them sleep. Many are completely unaware that the same nightcap (often a large spirit!), is what is disturbing their sleep later in the night. It can be a little motivator to drop the nightcap – and that may be enough to reduce weekly units by 15 or 20, which could massively reduce someone’s risk of hangovers/falls/long term health issues. Step by step…

  2. James Morris August 16, 2012 at 1:00 pm #

    Good point on the nightcap Niamh, especially I think amongst older drinkers as an area getting more recognition. I think also a key motivator for those falsely seeing alcohol as a stress-buster, not realising drinking is probably making things worse whether it through less sleep, energy, or other functioning effects..

  3. Niall Scott October 19, 2012 at 4:39 pm #

    In a similar vein to sleep I’d suggest anxiety.
    Homer Simpson’s “…alcohol, the cause of and solution to all of life’s problems” is apt as is often the case – in that people tend to think it helps without realising that for similar physiolgical reasons to sleep it actually makes the problem worse leading to an unfortunate cycle (as well as meaning other coping strategies aren’t developed, often making health / finances / relationships worse giving more things to be anxious about).
    I’d also put calories into the mix with people simply not considering it a foodstuff (the information should be on packaging but I assume the drinks industry is against it).
    Also the fact alcohol is so clearly linked to cancer – in my experience most people have a vague idea of the liver packing in…George Best…perhaps some idea that it can damage the brain in ‘alcoholics’…).
    Most of all the idea that ‘this means you’, not just people drinking, fighting, vomiting on the street – but it is always difficult to get nuance and risk rather than black and white simplicity across be it in an actual brief intervention or brief intervention training.

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