We’ve all seen a drunk at a party or restaurant who suddenly falls asleep and snores while mayhem and madness reigns about him or her. Enough alcohol can put you to sleep. However, the sleep you get is poor quality and potentially harmful over the long run.
Avoid drinking alcohol before bed. Sure, you might seem as if you’ve slept for hours, but your brain has barely slept at all.
Limits REM Sleep
It’s not the amount of sleep you get that makes you feel better in the morning – it’s the quality of sleep you get. Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is the deep sleep where we often dream. It’s essential for restoring the body’s depleted physical and mental reserves. You need three REM cycles a night.
If you do not get enough REM sleep you will feel awful the next day, even if you were in bed for eight hours or more. Scientists are not entirely sure why the brain needs REM sleep in order to function properly. All they know is that it’s needed.
The brain goes through specific wave patterns when awake, when drowsy, when asleep and when in REM sleep. When test subjects in Australia were given booze to drink before bed and hooked up to brain-wave reading machines, they did not exhibit normal brain wave activity.
Delta brain waves, associated with REM sleep and proper brain function, were disrupted. Alpha waves, which usually only appear when a person is resting quietly but awake, greatly increased in sleeping test subjects. Although the test subjects claimed to be asleep, their brain waves showed that their brains were awake. No wonder they felt so tired in the morning.
A Special Note For People With Sleep Apnea
If you suffer from sleep apnea, you need to avoid alcohol. You already have a hard enough time getting quality sleep because of how often your sleep apnea cuts off oxygen to your brain and body. You do not need to complicate matters with alcohol. Drinking high-calorie beverages like alcohol before sleep encourages weight gain, which is the last thing a person with sleep apnea needs.
Other things can worsen sleep apnea other than alcohol. These include some over the counter decongestants, smoking, sleeping flat on your back and, as previously mentioned, weight gain. They also can interrupt REM cycles or put more pressure on airways.
An Occasional Treat
Having a nightcap before bed every now and then should not damage your long-term health, but drinking every night before sleep is where the danger lies. If you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, then you need to talk to your doctor. Trying to self-medicate with alcohol will not only make you gain weight and risk addiction, but it also harms your brain. Drinking before bed does not make for sweet dreams. It makes you live inside a nightmare.