A lot is said about the relationship between wine and health. After all, who among us doesn't like a glass every now and then? For those who don't fall asleep as quickly as they'd like, or who end up not sleeping well, the question arises: Does a glass of wine at night help you to fall asleep?
First of all, it is important to emphasize that drinking in moderation is generally considered safe and even beneficial to health, but each individual reacts differently to alcohol. Factors that should be taken into account include age, sex and body type and fitness. You may feel relaxed and sleepy after a glass or more of wine, but that doesn't mean your night's sleep is as refreshing as it should be.
How does alcohol affect sleep?
To answer this question, it is important to first understand the different stages of the human sleep cycle. A normal sleep cycle consists of four different phases: three phases of non-rapid eye movement (Non-Rem) and a phase of rapid eye movement (REM).
Stage 1 (Non-Rem):
This early stage is essentially the transition period between wakefulness and sleep, during which the body will begin to shut down. The sleeper's heartbeat, breathing, and eye movements start to slow down and their muscles relax. Brain activity also starts to decline. This phase is also known as light sleep.
Stage 2 (Non-Rem):
Your heart rate and breathing rate continue to decrease as you move into deeper sleep. Your body temperature will also drop and your eyes will become immobile. Stage 2 is usually the longest of the four stages of the sleep cycle.
Stages 3 (Non Rem):
Heart rate, breathing rate and brain activity all reach their lowest levels in the sleep cycle. Eye movement ceases and muscles are fully relaxed. This stage is known as slow wave sleep.
REM sleep is activated about 90 minutes after the individual falls asleep. Eye movements will restart and respiratory rate and heart rate will accelerate. Dreaming occurs mainly during REM sleep. This stage is also believed to play a role in memory consolidation.
These four Non-REM and REM stages repeat cyclically throughout the night. Each cycle should last about 90-120 minutes, resulting in four to five cycles for every eight hours of sleep.
Drinking alcohol before bedtime can increase REM sleep suppression during the first two cycles. Because alcohol is a sedative, sleep onset is often shorter for drinkers, and some fall into deep sleep fairly quickly. As the night progresses, this can create an imbalance between slow wave sleep and REM sleep, resulting in less of the latter and more of the former. This decreases the overall quality of sleep, which can result in shorter sleep durations and more interruptions.
Alcohol and insomnia
Because alcohol can reduce REM sleep and cause sleep disruptions, people who drink before bed often experience symptoms of insomnia and feel excessively sleepy the next day. This can lead them into a vicious cycle, which consists of self-medicating with alcohol to fall asleep, consuming caffeine and other stimulants during the day to stay awake, and then using alcohol as a sedative to counteract the effects of these stimulants.< /p>
Alcohol and Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a disorder characterized by abnormal breathing and temporary loss of air during sleep.These breathing lapses can, in turn, cause interruptions in sleep and decrease its quality. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs due to physical blockages in the back of the throat, while central sleep apnea (ACS) occurs because the brain cannot properly signal the muscles that control breathing.
The relationship between sleep apnea and alcohol has been extensively researched. The general consensus, based on several studies, concludes that alcohol consumption increases the risk of sleep apnea by 25%.
After all, does alcohol help you sleep?
Alcohol can help with sleep initiation due to its sedative properties, allowing you to fall asleep more quickly. However, people who drink before bed often experience disruptions in the sleep cycle because liver enzymes metabolize alcohol.
This can also lead to excessive daytime sleepiness and other problems the next day. Also, drinking to fall asleep can build addiction, forcing you to consume more alcohol each successive night to feel the sedative effects.
Does alcohol affect men and women differently?
On average, women show signs of intoxication earlier and with lower doses of alcohol than men. This can be mainly attributed to two factors:
First, women tend to weigh less than men and those with lower body weight tend to become intoxicated more quickly.
Most women also have less water in their bodies than men. Alcohol circulates through water in the body, so women are more likely to have higher blood alcohol concentrations than men after consuming the same amount of alcohol.
In 2018, sleep quality was compared between individuals who consumed different amounts of alcohol. The conclusions are as follows:
Low amounts of alcohol (less than two servings a day for men or one serving a day for women) decreased sleep quality by 9.3%.
Moderate amounts of alcohol (two servings a day for men or one serving a day for women) decreased sleep quality by 24%.
Higher amounts of alcohol (more than two drinks a day for men or one drink a day for women) decreased sleep quality by 39.2%.
When should I stop drinking before bed to minimize sleep disruption?
To reduce the risk of sleep disruption, you should stop drinking alcohol at least four hours before bedtime.