Why Does Alcohol Make Me Sleepy? 7 Ways Drinking Disrupts Sleep
In this blog, we explain why drinking alcohol makes you feel sleepy. We also share the impact that alcohol has on sleep, and offer you tips and tricks on how to not get sleepy after drinking alcohol.
Alcohol slows down brain activity, inducing feelings of relaxation and sleepiness.
Alcohol can lead to frequent urination, thereby hindering deep, restorative rest.
To avoid alcohol-induced sleepiness, opt for low-alcohol drinks and eat before drinking.
Did you know?
About 20% of Americans report using alcohol as a sleep aid, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
Have you ever wondered why having a few drinks makes you feel drowsy? In this blog, we’ll explore the relationship between alcohol and sleep. We’ll dive into the science behind this relationship, unravel why alcohol makes you initially feel sleepy, and uncover the ways it disrupts deep, restorative rest.
Can Alcohol Make You Feel Sleepy?
Does beer make you sleepy? For many people the answer is yes. When you indulge in a glass of wine or beer, it’s not uncommon to experience a sense of drowsiness. This initial drowsiness is what many people associate with a nightcap. Alcohol’s soothing properties can help you fall asleep faster, but here’s the catch – your sleep might be short-lived. To understand why this is the case, let us look at why you feel sleepy all of a sudden after taking alcohol.
Why Does Drinking Make You Tired?
Alcohol is not just a social lubricant or a way to unwind; it’s also a central nervous system (CNS) depressant. This means that when you drink alcohol, it slows down your brain’s activity, leading to feelings of relaxation and sleepiness. It’s why you might feel that irresistible urge to snuggle into your bed after a few sips.
But what’s happening inside your brain that makes alcohol induce those feelings of sleepiness? It all boils down to a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA. Alcohol has a knack for increasing the activity of GABA in your brain, which produces a calming effect. This boost in GABA activity makes you feel drowsy and relaxed. However, this does not mean that alcohol is a healthy way to help you fall asleep.
In the next section, we delve into why alcohol negatively affects sleep despite helping many people fall asleep faster.
How Does Alcohol Disrupt Sleep?
Now that you know why you sleep more easily after drinking, here are seven ways in which alcohol consumption may interfere with the quality of your sleep:
Alcohol is known to have a diuretic effect, which means it increases urine production and the need to urinate. If you’ve ever found yourself making multiple trips to the bathroom after consuming alcohol, you’ve experienced this effect firsthand. Alcohol’s diuretic properties can lead to more frequent urination during the night, which can be highly disruptive to your sleep.
Challenges of Falling Back Asleep
The consequences of alcohol-induced frequent urination go beyond the simple act of waking up to use the bathroom. After each episode of waking, falling back asleep can be a struggle. It often takes time for your body and mind to return to a relaxed state that is conducive to sleep.
As a result, these disruptions reduce the total amount of sleep you get and hinder your ability to reach the deeper, more restorative stages of sleep. This, in turn, can leave you feeling groggy and fatigued the following day, even if you manage to go back to sleep after urinating.
Interfering With Sleep Cycles
During the first half of the night, alcohol’s effects can push you into deep sleep but skip over the important Random Eye Movement (REM) stage. REM sleep is when most of our dreaming and memory consolidation happens. In the second half of the night, your body tries to make up for the lost REM sleep, causing interruptions in your sleep and reducing its restorative quality. This explains why you often wake up feeling groggy after drinking, as alcohol disrupts the natural flow of your sleep cycle.
Sleep-Walking And Sleep-Talking
Alcohol’s influence on our sleep extends to potentially triggering sleep-talking (somniloquy) and sleepwalking (somnambulism). Sleep talking, affecting 5% of adults, may not have any medical significance but can also disrupt sleeping partners. On the other hand, sleepwalking is more concerning because it can pose various dangers as sleepwalkers navigate their environment, unaware of potential hazards.
Increasing Hot Flashes
Research from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) indicates that daily alcohol consumption significantly increases the risk of experiencing hot flashes and night sweats during menopause. Hot flashes are sudden feelings of intense warmth, often accompanied by sweating and a flushed face. For women already navigating the challenges of this life stage, alcohol can add another layer of sleep disturbances.
Muscle Relaxation and Snoring
You may also get muscle fatigue after drinking alcohol. Alcohol consumption, particularly when it occurs close to bedtime, can lead to muscle relaxation in the throat area. This relaxation affects the muscles that help maintain the patency of the upper airway. As these muscles become slack, the airway is more prone to narrowing or collapsing during sleep, leading to the development or exacerbation of snoring.
Oxygen Saturation Levels and Sleep Apnea
Alcohol has the potential to worsen sleep apnea due to its muscle-relaxing effects. When the airway muscles relax excessively during sleep, it can lead to more pronounced airway obstruction in individuals with sleep apnea, causing a further drop in oxygen saturation levels. This drop in oxygen levels can have negative consequences for cardiovascular health and overall sleep quality, making it a critical factor to consider for individuals with sleep apnea who consume alcohol.
Why Does Alcohol Make You Sleepy The Next Day?
Alcohol can make you feel sleepy the next day for several reasons:
1. Alcohol Withdrawal: If you consumed a significant amount of alcohol the night before, your body may experience a mild form of alcohol withdrawal the next day. This can lead to symptoms like anxiety, shakiness, and difficulty concentrating, which can make you feel tired.
2. Hangover: The after-effects of alcohol consumption, known as a hangover, can cause symptoms like headache, nausea, and fatigue. The combination of these symptoms can make you feel very sleepy.
3. Metabolic Effects: Alcohol can disrupt your metabolism and lead to fluctuations in blood sugar levels. This can result in feelings of tiredness and sluggishness.
4. Reduced Cognitive Function: Alcohol affects cognitive function and can impair your ability to think clearly and stay alert, making you feel sleepy.
5. General Discomfort: Alcohol can irritate the gastrointestinal system, leading to stomach discomfort, contributing to fatigue and sleepiness.
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How To Not Get Sleepy When Drinking
While many people may experience drowsiness or sleepiness when drinking alcohol, there are some strategies you can try to mitigate its sedative effects and stay alert. Here are some tips on not getting sleepy when drinking:
1. Choose Your Drinks Carefully: Opt for beverages with lower alcohol content. Lighter options like beer or wine typically have less alcohol than strong spirits.
2. Stay Hydrated: Drink water in between alcoholic beverages. Alcohol can dehydrate you, and dehydration can worsen feelings of fatigue.
3. Eat Before Drinking: Consuming a meal before drinking can help slow down the absorption of alcohol in your bloodstream and may reduce its sedative effects.
4. Avoid Sugary Mixers: Sugary cocktails can lead to energy crashes. Stick to simple mixed drinks or beverages with lower sugar content.
5. Set a Drinking Pace: Don't consume alcoholic drinks too quickly. Sip your drink slowly to give your body more time to metabolize the alcohol.
6. Stay Active: Engage in activities that keep you moving, like dancing or socializing. Physical activity can help counteract the sedative effects of alcohol.
7. Monitor Your Intake: Be aware of your alcohol consumption. Keep track of how much you've had, and know your limits to avoid overindulging.
8. Limit Late-Night Drinking: Drinking late into the night can interfere with your sleep cycle, making you feel more tired the next day. Try to finish your drinks 3 hours before bedtime.
9. Designate a Driver: If you're out, designate a sober driver or arrange alternate transportation. This allows you to enjoy your night without worrying about staying alert for driving.
10. Know Your Tolerance: People have varying tolerance levels for alcohol. Be aware of how alcohol affects you personally and adjust your drinking accordingly.
Remember that even with these strategies, alcohol can still have sedative effects, and it's not a reliable way to stay awake or alert. The best approach is to enjoy alcohol in moderation and prioritize your overall well-being and safety. If you need to stay alert, consider non-alcoholic alternatives or ensure you have a safe way to get home
Alcohol makes you feel sleepy by slowing down brain activity. But, it disrupts sleep by triggering frequent urination and interfering with sleep cycles. Alcohol can also trigger sleep disorders like sleep apnea and worsen hot flashes as well. To avoid sleepiness after drinking, opt for low-alcohol drinks, stay hydrated, eat before drinking, and limit late-night drinking.