Do people who drink less have better sleep? Or do people with good sleep tend to drink less? Alcohol is not good for sleep quality. But what if it helps you unwind before bed? Let’s take a closer look at the relationship between the two.
Alcohol seems to help you fall asleep
Alcohol can take the edge off after a stressful day and it might seem like you fall asleep easily after a few drinks. It is true people can fall asleep quicker after drinking. But this is only because of the sedative effects of alcohol and it doesn’t produce quality sleep.
In fact, going to bed after drinking increases sleep fragmentation. You tend to sleep shorter and experience more wakeful episodes throughout the night as liver enzymes metabolize alcohol. Alcohol also supressed REM sleep which is important for memory consolidation and emotional well-being. All of this can lead to excessive daytime sleepiness and other issues the following day.
Will a small amount of alcohol disrupt my sleep?
Unfortunately, even small amounts of alcohol can reduce sleep quality for some people, if they drink close to their bedtime. A study from 2018 showed the following:
- Fewer than 2 servings per day for men or 1 serving per day for women decreased sleep quality by 9,3%
- 2 servings per day for men or 1 serving per day for women decreased sleep quality by 24%
- More than 2 servings per day for men or 1 serving per day for women decreased sleep quality by 39.2%.
The relationship goes both ways
According to a recent study, better sleep is associated with lower alcohol consumption. Especially participants with a good stress balance reported stronger dietary self-control and lower alcohol consumption than those with a poorer stress balance. So, getting better sleep by drinking less might make it easier to keep drinking less.
When should you have your last drink before bed?
After you start drinking, alcohol takes around 60 minutes to reach peak levels in the blood. It has a half-life of around 4 hours in the body. That means you reduce the quantity of alcohol in your bloodstream in half every 4 hours. Studies suggest that if you consider cutting back on alcohol in favour of sleep, you should stop drinking alcohol at least four hours before bedtime.
It seems that trying to improve sleep and cut back on alcohol are both mutually beneficial efforts.