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I used to think drinking alcohol in the evening had a positive influence on my energy levels, because by the time I had done a day’s work, cooked a meal and looked after my children I was exhausted, and a drink or two, or three made me feel better.
The bottle or two of wine in the evening seemed to wake me up and gave me a new burst of energy. The belief that alcohol made me feel less tired was particularly evident at the weekend if I was going out and felt too tired to go. A large glass of wine before going used to make me feel alert and less tired. But once again the con artist was at work in ways that I really could not have imagined and only understood through my later research and learning.
Even one medium-sized glass of wine or half a pint of beer will affect sleep quality. If our sleep is affected in ways that we don’t realise we will be used to going through our day thinking that the way we feel is normal. It’s no surprise that we end up reaching for the very thing that caused us to feel so tired in the first place.
I came to realise that having a drink or two in the evenings made me feel less tired, and so when I felt tired, I would have a drink. The result being that I no longer felt tired. Like everything in the alcohol conundrum, it is back to front. There was a huge dawning when I realised why I was feeling so tired in the first place. Even one glass of alcohol will affect sleep in a significant way. If that one glass is expanded to the whole bottle, or more, then sleep is disrupted even further.
The reason that a couple of drinks makes us feel less tired, is because alcohol depresses or shuts down the signals from our brain that tell us we’re tired. It just covers it up. As we drink more over an evening, the process of shutting down continues, and we feel lethargic, sedated and go to bed. This is why we think that alcohol helps us to sleep
There are two types of sleep, and we need both: Slow Wave Sleep (SWS) and Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Sleep It has been shown that SWS is required for rejuvenation and repair of the body and that it is now known that REM is essential for our emotional regulation. During REM sleep we deal with emotions that have not been processed during the day. It’s like our own mini internal therapy session, and without it we can suffer from depression and anxiety.
The human body needs between 4 and 6 cycles of REM sleep per night and each cycle last 90 minutes. Even small amounts of alcohol disrupt sleep, so the REM we need does not occur adequately, and we only get between one and two REM cycles during a night.
If we’re drinking virtually every night of the week not only is alcohol seriously damaging our immunity and health because of its toxicity, it is also seriously damaging your sleep. I was getting back from work tired was because I had not had enough of the right kind of sleep the night before. The sleep I was getting wasn’t a refreshing kind of sleep it was an exhausted kind of sleep. The majority of sleep in the initial hours of sleep is SWS, and the majority of REM sleep occurs later on. This is exactly the time when alcohol starts to withdraw from our system causing higher adrenaline, and cortisol levels, and this is what causes the problem.
I now sleep soundly and aim for 5 REM cycles per night. Consequently, in the evenings after a full day’s work and activity I may feel a little weary, but I don’t feel dog-tired and I know that if I do it’s because I am tired, and I need more rest.
A glass or two may dull our tiredness so we don’t know it’s there, and more may sedate us, but all of this is planting more accumulative fatigue for the next day, and affecting our physical and emotional health. Poor sleep is connected to increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and obesity, and it also lowers our immunity making it easier for us to succumb to viruses and harder for us to shake them off.
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