Categories: Sleep Science

Can’t Sleep? Skip the Booze for a Better Snooze.

It’s the first Friday night of the summer, which after a long work week means the first night of freedom. While some of you may party into the wee hours of Saturday morning, others will go out for dinner and a nightcap with friends. In both scenarios, alcohol is the common factor. While a drink or two (when someone else is driving) on Friday night isn’t a problem, you should make sure you’re not drinking too close to the time you hit your pillow. According to WebMD, over 15% of people use alcohol as a sleeping pill replacement before bed. It’s a common misconception that having a nightcap will aid in the sleeping efforts and while at first it can make you feel drowsy, there are some reasons why it’s important to skip the booze for a better snooze.

The average adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep per night to function on a high level throughout the day. Drinking an excessive amount of alcohol three hours or less before bedtime can cut the hours of sleep you’re getting in half. It’s no coincidence that a recent study found that 28% of insomniacs (almost a third!) admitted to being dependent on alcohol before bed.

According to a study cited by Men’s Health, when you drink before bed, you spend less time in that deep REM sleep cycle. On a normal night when you go to bed sober, your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) takes over, which works to lower your heart rate and relax your muscles. This allows for a great night of sleep and a morning that needs little coffee. When you go to sleep after drinking, your sympathetic nervous system, which keeps you attentive and active throughout the day never gives up control to your PNS, leaving you in that foggy state all night long and exhausted the entire next day.

There are ways to avoid the foggy night’s sleep, the first being the most obvious: don’t drink before bed. But let’s face it, there are nights where one thing leads to another and while you had no intentions of going to that one last bar, you somehow ended up there anyway. When you get home from a night on the town, try to stay awake for an hour or two before going to bed. While at the time, this request may seem more difficult than brain surgery, it will help you sleep better through the night. The first thing you should do when you get home is drink a big glass of water, then try watching TV for just a few minutes or so before settling into bed for the night. It will give your body a little time to detox some of the alcohol in your system and by the time you do go to bed, you’ll be even more exhausted.

Finally, make sure you’re not sleeping on an old mattress. Having a good mattress allows you to sleep well in the worst of circumstances, which in this case may have been one tequila shot too many.

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