As people age, it can be more difficult to fall asleep. It’s not uncommon for people to turn to alcohol as a way to relax and ease into bed. About 20% of Americans say they drink alcohol to help them fall asleep. In Japan, about 40% of men 40 years old and older say they drink daily.
But the truth is, alcohol isn’t doing your sleep any favors. Yes, it might help you fall asleep faster, but the impact it has on your sleep throughout the night simply isn’t worth it. Alcohol disrupts the second half of a night of sleep (around the time that your body has rid itself of the alcohol), leading to more awakenings. Alcohol also delays the onset of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the sleep phase that is important for turning today’s activities into tomorrow’s memories.
What does that mean for you? After drinking alcohol, you’ll experience more sleep disruptions, which means you’ll wake up feeling sleepy and not refreshed, impacting your cognitive performance and memory function.
It’s also believed that drinking before bed can impact circadian rhythm, your natural body clock. Alcohol might interfere with the hormones that tell your body when to sleep and when to wake. After drinking, you’re more likely to wake up before you’re fully rested.
So the verdict is official: alcohol is no friend to sleep. If you want to indulge with a glass of red wine at night, have it with dinner or before dinner (it takes about 4-5 hours for your body to metabolize alcohol). Stay awake until the results of the alcohol have worn off and climb into bed sober for the best night’s sleep.