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How Bad It Is To drink Alcohol Right Before Bedtime?

While after getting a nightcap you can pass out faster, drinking before bedtime eventually takes a toll on the quality of your sleep.

How Bad It Is To drink Alcohol Right Before Bedtime?

While after getting a nightcap you can pass out faster, drinking before bedtime eventually takes a toll on the quality of your sleep. When was the last time you were bumped into hitting the sack? Perhaps after dinner you've had a drink (or two), or cooling down with a chilled glass of chardonnay is part of your nightly routine.

Well, that cocktail hour can backfire that evening. Ironically, even though alcohol can make you feel drowsy, experts believe that the rest of a good night is kryptonite.

"Alcohol will easily render you sleepy, but it won't help you maintain normal safe sleep," says sleep specialist and neurologist Chris Winter, MD, author of The Sleep Remedy. "In fact, it suppresses the positive, restorative aspects of many of the sleep."

Here we're discussing how a nightcap impacts your body and brain, and whether it's just throwing your sleep off balance — or completely out of whack.

Why Does Alcohol Make You Doze Off Easier?

Booze originally has a sedative effect. "Acute consumption of alcohol causes the release of adenosine, a drug that the body naturally produces to facilitate sleep," says Anita Shelgikar, MD, associate professor of neurology and director of the University of Michigan's sleep medicine fellowship. As a result, the more likely you will crash as soon as your head hits the pillow.

Drinking suppresses fear, as well. If you seem to have trouble turning your racing spirit off at night, alcohol will help you chill out. "It's an anxiolytic, but you're comfortable," says Dr. Winter.

Sounds sweet, doesn't it? Yet drinking your way to dreamland can have potentially dangerous consequences.

"As tolerance to alcohol increases, the person needs more alcohol to achieve the same sleep-promoting effects," says Dr. Shelgikar.

According to the National Institute on Substance Dependence and Alcoholism ( NIAAA), people become tolerant of boozing the sedative qualities within as little as three days. Not to mention that upping your intake will cause a host of other issues — like potentially leading you to alcohol use disorder on a slippery slope.

Getting Tipsy Before Bed Will Mess Up Your Sleep Cycle

Throughout the course of a typical night, your brain cycles are sleeping between light sleep, slow-wave sleep, and rapid eye movement (or REM, the sleep stage when you dream). Yet drinking does change the architecture.

"Beer raises the amount of time you spend in slow-wave sleep in the first half of the night," says Dr. Shelgikar.

The deepest stage of sleep is slow-wave sleep, which sounds like a good thing to get more from. According to a January 2013 study of Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Studies, this kind of sleep plays a crucial role in tissue recovery, consolidating memories, repairing bones and muscles, and improving the immune system.

Slow-wave sleep is often when the growth hormones churn out of your body. "Growth hormones are critical to bone strength, immune function, and recovery of injuries," says Dr. Winter.

Now the bad news is here: Booze can interfere with those benefits. In spite of the uptick in slow-wave sleep, consuming alcohol before bedtime results in suppression of growth hormones, according to the NIAAA.

"Beer also significantly reduces REM sleep in the first half of the night, and possibly the whole night," says Dr. Shelgikar. "REM sleep is related to cognitive abilities including memory, learning, and attention. REM disturbance may be problematic in health and performance optimization."

You'll be waking up more frequently

After briefly lulling you into a few hours of a deep sleep, then, in the second half of the night, alcohol causes a range of disturbance.

"Metabolizing alcohol takes about three hours," says Dr. Shelgikar. At that point, you'll probably find yourself doing midnight bathroom runs, as booze suppresses vasopressin, an antidiuretic hormone.

What's more, booze can interfere with respiration. Drinking is associated with a 25 percent higher risk of obstructive sleep apnea (when tissues in your throat block your airway during sleep), possibly because it increases the collapse of the upper airway and leads to higher BMI, per a study in Sleep Medicine in February 2018.

"Studies have also shown that alcohol use leads to longer durations of apneas, along with a more dramatic drop in oxygen levels," Dr. Shelgikar says.

Warning

"If you are also taking sleeping pills or another sedative, never drink," says Dr. Shelgikar. Doing so "can have hazardous effects on breathing control inside your brain," she says.

In addition to all this, a nightcap's dehydration effects contribute to more snoring and lighter sleep per the National Sleep Foundation.

In the morning you're going to be tired and cranky

Fragmented sleep means the next day maybe you're off your game. "You are more likely to be exhausted and disoriented, and have concentration difficulties," says Dr. Winter.

And keep in mind that nocturnal awakenings fuelled by alcohol chip away at your total amount of eye shut. But even though you have been in bed for 7 hours or more, as suggested by the American Sleep Medicine Association, you are still reporting less zzzs.

"Disruptions to your overall sleep quantity and quality may have a detrimental effect on your cardiovascular health, cognitive performance, and metabolic outcomes," says Dr. Shelgikar.

How Bad It Is To drink Alcohol Right Before Bedtime?

3 Ways To Reduce The Sleeping Effect Of Alcohol

Fortunately, even if you do tip one back before bed, you can take precautions to mitigate the damage.

1. Stop Drinking Well Before Bedtime

Give yourself at least three hours of cutoff before it hits the hay (longer if you drink more). That's about how long it takes an adult to metabolize one drink on an empty stomach, according to the NIAAA.

That takes up to 4.5 hours to process two drinks, six hours for three drinks, and seven hours if you've got four servings.

"You want to give yourself a buffer where your body is able to metabolize the alcohol before bedtime," says Dr. Shelgikar.

2. Snack When You Drink

Eating a meal containing fat, protein or carbs will minimize the total amount of alcohol that is ingested into your body and help you metabolize it faster, according to a November 2013 study of Clinical Liver Disease.

"Simply be aware of your total intake," says Dr. Shelgikar. "Sometimes, you end up drinking more because there is less alcohol absorption."

3. Grab It Easy

And if even a single drink affects the consistency of the night, the better the less you knockback.

"I have never met someone who started drinking excessively and did not see a significant difference when it came to the quality of their sleep and the way they felt the next day."

Low alcohol consumption (less than 0.25 grams per kilo of body weight) decreased physiological recovery during sleep by an average of about 9 percent, per a report in JMIR Mental Health in January 2018. With moderate intake (between 0.25-0.75 g / kg) and 39 percent after heavy drinking (greater than 0.75 g / kg), this increased to 24 percent.

Bottom line: The more you drink, the less your body bounces back from the alcohol impact when you sleep.

4 Tips on falling asleep Fast — No Vino needed

As many as 20 percent of Americans use alcohol as a sleep aid, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Instead, consider Dr. Shelgikar 's healthy strategies:

  1. Keep a regular sleep-wake routine where you go to bed seven days a week and get up at the same time.
  2. Establish a nightly wind-down routine to prepare for the night, with calming activities.
  3. Minimize the use of electronics 1-2 hours before bedtime.
  4. Make sure your dormitory is cool, dark, and quiet.

Yeah, how bad is drinking before bed, really?

It depends on how much you drink, and how long you do it.

"If you have a glass of wine at 8 and go to bed at 11 then it's not a big deal," says Dr. Winter. "So it is a huge deal to drink a whole bottle of wine every night, starting when you cook and finishing it after the meal."

Dr. Winter refers to what he calls the "cupcake analogy": If friends carry cupcakes to celebrate a birthday once in a while, go for it. But you're not fantastic at indulging in sweets on the reg.

"Similarly, it's probably meaningless if you rip it up once a year, but realize that [you] skipped your [restorative sleep] that night," he says. "On the other hand, if you drink 30 percent of the time at night, then you take the decision to turn your back on the usual synthesis and release growth hormones."

If you're unsure where your drinking ends, experiment with a two-week leave. "I have never met someone who started drinking excessively and did not see a significant difference when it came to the quality of their sleep and the way they felt the next day," says Dr. Winter.

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YourFitnessRink - Fitness and Health Matters: How Bad It Is To drink Alcohol Right Before Bedtime?
How Bad It Is To drink Alcohol Right Before Bedtime?
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