Alcohol can have a sedative effect and cause a person to fall asleep more quickly than usual. However, consuming alcohol can also cause sleep disruption and other adverse effects on people’s health.
In this article, we explore the sedative effects of alcohol and ways to avoid this from occurring. We also discuss the possible negative effects of alcohol on the body and sleep.
Alcohol depresses the central nervous system and has a sedating effect.
As alcohol enhances the GABA’s function, it causes a slowing of brain activity, which can make a person feel sleepy and tired.
While alcohol consumption may help someone fall asleep, there is a reduction in sleep quality
If a person plans to consume alcohol but wants to avoid disrupted sleep, they can take measures to help plan an adequate sleep. These include:
- Allowing time between drinking and bedtime to metabolize alcohol: A person may want to cut off drinking a few hours before bed to prevent sleepiness or restlessness from alcohol.
- Reducing waking to urinate: A person can do this by going to the bathroom before bed.
- Avoiding drinks containing caffeine: These beverages can cause further disruptions to sleep.
- Maintaining a regular sleep schedule: This may help a person avoid sleepiness and sleep disruption.
- Being physically active regularly during the day: This may also help improve sleep hygiene.
Although alcohol can initially have a sedative effect, it can lead to problems in the sleep cycle. These negative effects include the below.
Less REM sleep
Drinking alcohol can disrupt the rapid eye movement (REM) phase of sleep, an important, restorative stage of deep sleep during which dreaming occurs.
Disrupted sleep cycle
Alcohol can lead to fragmented sleep and waking up during the night, as it disrupts the sleep cycle.
- enter lighter stages of sleep from deeper ones
- wake up frequently
- remain awake for longer periods between sleep after alcohol consumption
Night awakenings and insomnia
Regular use of alcohol as a sleep aid can be counterproductive. Although it may
- falling asleep
- remaining asleep
- getting quality sleep
Researchers believe the link between insomnia and alcohol consumption to be
Insomnia due to alcohol consumption can increase the risks of various health issues, which
Worsen sleep apnea
Sleep talking and walking
Disrupted sleep can also cause various negative effects on a person’s general health. These include:
Raising stress hormones
Alcohol causes a higher production of the stress hormone cortisol, which regulates the body’s stress response and initiates wakefulness. Disruptions to this hormone can lead to reduced quality sleep and cognitive difficulties.
Heart rate increase
During sleep, a person’s heart rate should slow and drop to below
Affects learning and memory
Alcohol consumption can lead to a lack of sufficient quality sleep, which can seriously affect cognitive functions such as learning and memory.
Research has found that people’s ability to remember, pay attention, and carry out cognitive functions declines with a lack of sleep.
Alcohol can cause sleepiness and may initially have a sedative effect. This is because it depresses the central nervous system and enhances the effects of the GABA neurotransmitter, which slows brain activity.
However, a person’s sleep quality after alcohol consumption is generally worse. People who consume alcohol may wake up during sleep and experience increased disruptions such as sleep apnea and snoring.
Alcohol disrupts the sleep cycle and generally leads to lower quality sleep. Experts also associate it with insomnia, which can increase the risk of other health conditions, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cognitive difficulties.