If you drink alcohol, you might notice that the substance can make you drowsy. Unfortunately, this can give a false impression that alcohol is an effective sleep aid. The truth is something much different. Not only can drinking too much lead to alcohol abuse, but it also is not an effective sleep aid. A new study confirms that alcohol affects the quality of your sleep.

The Body’s Normal Sleep Cycles

When you get the right type of sleep, your body and brain will experience several sleep patterns. These are divided into Non-REM and REM sleep cycles. The Non-REM, or NREM, cycle begins just as you nod off to sleep and your eye movements and brain waves slow down. This is a period of light sleep where you might be easily awakened.

The next stage of sleep is REM, which happens about 90 minutes after you fall asleep and could occur in multiple cycles throughout the night. During this stage, you are more likely to dream, your breathing and blood pressure rates rise, and your brain is more active. This is a vital stage of sleep that contributes to learning and long-term memory.

How Alcohol Affects Sleep Quality

When you are drinking to fall asleep or otherwise consuming alcohol before bedtime, you have a greater chance of disrupting your body’s normal sleep cycles. According to a study published in JMIR Mental Health, even moderate alcohol intake can impair sleep.

A team of researchers studied over 4,000 subjects aged 18 to 65, some who consumed low, moderate, high, and no levels of alcohol over several nights. The study concluded that even one alcoholic drink affects sleep quality. Moderate intake impacted sleep quality by 24 percent and high intake of alcohol by 39.2 percent.

How does alcohol affect sleep? According to the National Sleep Foundation, drinking alcohol can impact both quality and quantity of sleep in several ways. Alcohol blocks REM sleep, and it can interrupt your circadian rhythms. Drinking alcohol can also cause you to use the bathroom more frequently and could aggravate existing breathing problems.

Man lying in bed covering half his face with a white sheet.

Getting Adequate Sleep Without Alcohol

Are you worried that you will not be able to sleep without alcohol? This is a common concern among people who have used alcohol as a means to fall or stay asleep. Unfortunately, this substance is not the cure-all that it seems and could lead to some dangerous and deadly health issues.

If you have become addicted to alcohol, you will still be able to sleep without it, but it may take some time. When you attend an addiction treatment program, you will learn some tools that promote healthy living, which includes getting enough sleep.

Alcohol abuse may have taken a toll on your body and mind, so there could be an adjustment period before regular sleep returns. Some of the things that you can do to promote a good night’s rest include adopting healthy habits such as a regular schedule and avoiding long naps or caffeine late in the day. You can also learn some relaxation techniques and ways to keep your time filled so that your mind and body will need the rest at the right time.

Sleep aids of any type are not a good idea when you are in recovery from alcohol abuse unless given to you by your treating physician. If you want to stop using alcohol for sleep and find a new way to live, there is help available. Contact The Recovery Village now to speak with one of our compassionate staff about your alcohol treatment options.