Why Does Alcohol Mess With My Sleep? The New York Times

Although there’s no evidence that alcohol can cause narcolepsy (sleepwalking), it does disrupt REM sleep, which may make the onset of sleepwalking more likely. Your gut microbiome is a hotbed of bacteria that help keep your digestive system happy and healthy. The trillions of microbes in your colon and large and small intestines are critical to proper digestion. Your liver detoxifies and removes alcohol from your blood through a process known as oxidation. When your liver finishes that process, alcohol gets turned into water and carbon dioxide. And that’s on top of the toll that alcohol use can take on relationships, not to mention the potential for financial strain and legal troubles.

Submit your number and receive a free call today from a treatment provider. Call now to connect with a treatment provider and start your recovery journey. In addition, according to the AUDIT-C criteria, we identified 66 workers (33.7%; AS 5.0, CI 4.789–5.302) with harmful consumption in the NW group and 25 (12.8%; AS 4.40, CI 4.009–4.871) in DW group.

Causes and risk factors

Furthermore, low alcohol doses, which can be stimulating in humans (Roehrs and Roth 1995), have been shown to raise nor-epinephrine levels in the cortex of rats (Rossetti et al. 1992). Conversely, higher alcohol doses, which can be sedating in humans, have been shown to lower norepinephrine release in rats. Thus, the dose-dependent effects of alcohol on sleep seem to parallel the dose-dependent effects of alcohol on norepinephrine release.

  • If you’re struggling to get enough quality rest, talk to a health care professional about ways to improve your sleep.
  • Even after a single drink normal sleepers can develop snoring and even obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) resulting in oxygen desaturations (7,57).
  • Late afternoon (“happy hour”) drinking, as much as six hours before bedtime, also disrupts sleep, even though alcohol is no longer in the brain at bedtime (18).
  • The trillions of microbes in your colon and large and small intestines are critical to proper digestion.
  • During sleep, a person’s heart rate should slow and drop to below 60 beats per minute.

This peak may be blunted or delayed in those with AD (Kuhlwein et al., 2003). Consequently, AD subjects may be more likely to manifest a delayed phase type disorder, which may present as difficulty falling asleep. Some studies have reported a mild withdrawal syndrome persisting after the cessation of an acute withdrawal phase.

Will a small amount of alcohol affect my sleep?

Among those with AD, treatment-seeking subjects have been demonstrated to have a higher Periodic Limb Movement Index (PLMI) as compared to controls (Brower and Hall, 2001). A longitudinal study involving patients sober for 2–3 weeks after withdrawal, demonstrated higher baseline PLMI and PLMI with arousals versus healthy controls (Gann et al., 2002). At the 6-month follow-up, https://ecosoberhouse.com/ subjects with AD who relapsed had significantly higher PLMI and PLMI with arousals, than those who did not. Conversely, another study failed to find a difference in PLMI between those with AD in early recovery and controls (Le Bon et al., 1997). Magnesium supplementation had a mixed result on PLMs in an open-label trial of AD patients (Hornyak et al., 2004).

Overall, these studies indicate that alcoholic patients even during abstinence may be more likely than control subjects to have sleep-disordered breathing, but specific results may vary depending on the particular measure and cut-off values used. Aldrich and colleagues (1999) used a different measure of sleep-disordered breathing called an apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) to investigate sleep disorders in alcoholics and nonalcoholics. The study found that significantly more alcoholic than nonalcoholic subjects exhibited mild sleep-disordered breathing, as indicated by an AHI of 5 or more. The proportions of alcoholic and control subjects with clinically significant breathing problems (i.e., an AHI of 10 or more), however, did not differ. Polysomnographic analyses found that some sleep abnormalities can persist for 1 to 3 years after cessation of alcohol consumption (see table 2). For example, two study groups reported more frequent than normal shifting from one sleep stage to another, suggesting sleep “fragmentation,” after 12 to 24 months of abstinence (Adamson and Burdick 1973; Williams and Rundell 1981).

Development of Alcohol and Sleep Problems

Another way alcohol can disrupt your sleep is by causing you to make trips to the bathroom to urinate. You probably don’t drink a large volume of water just before bed because you know if you do, you’ll be waking up at least once during the night. However, you may not think twice about drinking alcoholic beverages, which will also fill your bladder and spark the urge to urinate. Consuming alcohol could also result in an imbalance in the sleep stages you experience. However, rapid eye movement sleep (REM) is also a vital part of the sleep cycle, since it aids in mental restoration.

Drinking alcohol can disrupt the rapid eye movement (REM) phase of sleep, an important, restorative stage of deep sleep during which dreaming occurs. In this article, we explore the sedative effects of alcohol and ways to avoid this from occurring. We also discuss the possible negative effects of alcohol on the body and sleep. In summary, insomnia is prevalent across all stages of AD and may have psychosocial, addiction and psychiatric ramifications.


Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that causes breathing disruptions during sleep. In some cases, a person’s brain doesn’t send the right signals to control their breathing during sleep. In these cases, the problem lies with the throat muscles, which relax too much, partially or fully blocking a person’s airway repeatedly during the night. Research also indicates that drinking alcohol makes a person more likely to experience a sleep-related eating disorder. The primary characteristic of these disorders is episodes of binge eating during the night.


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