There’s nothing like unwinding after a long day, and a nightcap sounds like the perfect solution. In fact, about 20 percent of Americans use alcohol to help them sleep. But, while it may make you sleepy, it doesn’t exactly promote sound sleep. The more you drink, the more disruptive it is to rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the stage where you dream and where your brain waves are most active. The less REM sleep you get, the groggier you feel. Less REM is also associated with a greater risk of dementia. More studies need to be done to determine this relationship, but if alcohol interrupts REM sleep, it’s important to drink in moderation or if possible, not at all.
Circadian rhythm is your biological clock. It regulates sleep-wake cycles, body temperature, eating habits, digestion and other daily activities of the body. A properly functioning rhythm lets you fall asleep and wake up at around the same time every day. Alcohol, however, ruins it by increasing the production of adenosine. It’s a chemical that helps you fall asleep faster, but it quickly subsides so that you wake up before you’ve had complete rest.
A nightcap is linked with slow-wave sleep patterns called delta activity that allow for learning and memory formation. At the same time, it activates alpha activity which usually occurs when you’re resting quietly and not when you sleep. This clash of patterns can lead to restlessness and preventing you from getting proper sleep.
Alcohol’s tendency to disrupt sleep can leave you deprived of it. Chronic drinking can also lead to sleep disorders and it could set off a vicious cycle. The more you drink, the less sleep you get. The less sleep you get, the more you may drink in order to fall asleep easily. A study has suggested that frequent binge drinking is linked with insomnia symptoms in older adults. 26.2 percent of those studied binges drank two days or less per week while 3.1 percent binge drank more than that. It was found that those who drank more frequently had an 84-percent greater chance of reporting an insomnia symptom.
People with sleep apnea already have a hard time getting good sleep. But when alcohol enters the picture, things become worse. Alcohol is a relaxant and relaxes the muscles of the throat. This causes the airway to be constricted so that it becomes difficult to breathe. Even if you don’t have sleep apnea, drinking before bed could cause mild symptoms that could prevent you from getting restful sleep.
There are sleep stages that you go through several times a night. Each of these has a role to play. Some rebuild cells, some regulate hormones and most aid in the consolidation of information and memory. Alcohol, however, disrupts the duration of sleep states, changes the total sleep time, and makes it difficult to fall asleep again once you wake. So, while it acts as a sedative and helps you sleep when you first get to bed, you won’t be able to sleep through the night.
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Alcohol disrupts, but you don’t have to do away with it altogether. Try to stick to one or two drinks a day – one for women and two for men. You should also drink no later than three hours before going to bed so that your body is able to metabolize it. It will keep you from going to the bathroom at night too; alcohol is a diuretic, and if you have it close to bedtime, you’ll be making frequent trips to the bathroom.
A comfortable sleeping environment is also important whether you drink or not as it promotes better sleep by relaxing you. You can create one by closing the blinds, dimming the lights and turning off distracting things like gadgetry. You can also use comfy pillows and a mattress that’s designed to keep you cool and your body properly supported.
Nuvanna is a mattress that aims to help you sleep better through its innovative design. It’s the brainchild of a mattress expert with over 20 years of experience. It features three essential layers with the top comprising a cooling gel layer that disperses heat and keeps your body cool. The middle layer minimizes motion so that you and your partner can move freely without disturbing the other. The bottom uses a Progressive Support System that keeps your spine aligned and your body supported.
Quality sleep is one of the foundations of good health, and you need to do all you can to get it. Too much alcohol ruins sleep, but it doesn’t in moderation. However, if you don’t drink, there’s no reason to start. And if you do, do so in small quantities and well before you head to bed. Add a comfortable sleeping environment to the mix, and you will be able to get the rest you need.