How Alcohol Affects Sleep

How Alcohol harms sleep

Bathroom Breaks: You might have noticed that when you drink, you typically get up in the middle of the night to use the restroom, and then find it hard to fall back to sleep. This is because of two reasons:

1. Alcohol is a diuretic. This means it is hard for the body to break it down & it produces a lot of urine. 2. Alcohol is a depressant. It triggers the production of adenosine ( a sleep inducing molecule) in the brain, which causes you to fall asleep faster. To counteract the effects of the depressant, the brain produces a stimulating molecule (glutamate). Adenosine wanes quickly, waking you up, but glutamate does not. In the end, find yourself having trouble falling alseep again.

If alcohol has become a part of your nightly routine, you may find that falling asleep without it is difficult at first. This is an important time to beef up your sleep hygiene. Proper sleep hygiene can help you fall asleep easier and have a better night’s rest. Here are some ideas:

  • Reduce or eliminate screen time 2 hours before bed.

  • Wear blue-light blocking glasses if you do use screens in the evening.

  • Use a white noise machine at bedtime.

  • Try guided meditation or yoga nidra prior to bed.

  • Develop an evening routine that signals to your brain that it’s time to go to sleep, like a detailed skincare routine or preparing clothes and supplies for the next day.

  • Go to bed + rise at the same time every day.

  • Use familiar and relaxing scents at bedtime, like lavender essential oil.

  • Exercise in the morning or afternoon. (Evening workouts may disrupt sleep).

  • Limit caffeine intake during the day, especially in the afternoon and evening.

  • Take a warm bath before bedtime to unwind and relax your nervous system.

  • Create a relaxing and inviting environment in your bedroom, limiting light. Invest in nice sheets or pajamas, create a little sacred space on your bedside table.

Breus, M. (2018, January). Alcohol and Sleep: What You Need to Know. Psychology Today.
Macmillan, A. (2017, October). Why Dreaming May Be Important for Your Health. TIME.
Sleep Foundation. (2020, September). Alcohol and Sleep.