Nightcap and Good Sleep: Does Drinking Alcohol Before Bed Affect Sleep By Michaela

Alcohol is a depressant of the central nervous system that slows brain function. Alcohol has sedative effects that can create feelings of relaxation and sleepiness, therefore drinking around bedtime may result in a restful night’s sleep. However, excessive alcohol consumption has been associated with poor sleep quality and duration.

Those who regularly consume alcohol before bedtime may have symptoms of sleeplessness. According to studies, alcohol use might increase the symptoms of sleep apnea. Moderate drinking is typically seen as harmless, however, every individual reacts to alcohol differently. Therefore, the effect of alcohol on sleep is highly dependent on the individual.

The Connection between Alcohol and Restful Sleep

Several minutes after consuming alcohol, you may feel tired, and the next thing you know, the sun is already shining on your face. However, alcohol and sleep have a deeper relationship than this suggests.

The stomach and small intestine absorb alcohol into the bloodstream once a person consumes the substance. Alcohol is eventually metabolized by enzymes in the liver, but because this is a somewhat lengthy process, excess alcohol continues to circulate throughout the body.

The effects of alcohol rely greatly on the user and variables such as the amount drank and the rate of consumption, as well as the individual’s age, gender, body type, and physique.

Experts and researchers utilize the four stages of sleep to determine how alcohol affects sleep. Three non-rapid eye movement (NREM) stages and one rapid eye movement (REM) stage comprise a normal sleep cycle.

Stage 1 (NREM)

During the first stage, the body begins to shut down in preparation for sleep. The heart rate, respiration, and eye movements of the sleeper begin to calm down, and their muscles relax. Likewise, brain activity begins to decline. This stage is often referred to as light sleep.

Stage 2 (NREM)

As a person progresses into deeper sleep, their heart rate and respiration rate continue to decrease. In addition, their body temperature will decrease and their eyes will become motionless. Stage 2 is often the longest of the four stages of the sleep cycle.

Stages 3 (NREM)

Heart rate, respiration rate, and brain activity all reach their lowest levels during this phase of sleep. Muscles are completely relaxed, and eye movements halt. This phase is referred to as slow-wave sleep.


REM sleep begins approximately 90 minutes after a person falls asleep. The sleeper’s eye movements will resume, and their respiration and heart rate will accelerate. The majority of dreaming occurs during REM sleep. It is believed that this stage also plays a role in memory consolidation.

Alcohol consumption before bedtime can contribute to the reduction of REM sleep during the first two cycles. Since alcohol is a sedative, sleep onset is frequently shortened for those who consume it, and some may fall into a deep slumber relatively rapidly.

This can cause an imbalance between slow-wave sleep and REM sleep as the night passes, resulting in less REM sleep and more slow-wave sleep. This affects overall sleep quality, which can lead to shorter sleep duration and an increase in sleep interruptions.

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Other Potential Alcohol Effects on Sleep

Alcohol consumption does not just impair regular sleep patterns or cause insomnia. Alcohol can cause you to wake up after a few hours of sleep and have difficulty falling back asleep. There are also several adverse effects you should be aware of, including:

Nightmares and Vivid Dreams

With alcohol in your system, dopamine may be initially released when you are wide awake, but when your sleep patterns fluctuate, you are more prone to have vivid, vivid dreams and nightmares.

You may or may not recall them, but they can be lucid or induce a feeling of being half awake and half asleep. Because you may be at some point.

Sleepwalking and Parasomnias

You may experience frequent movement or talk during sleep. There is a possibility that you will act out your dreams physically during sleep, or perhaps sleepwalk.

You may also experience parasomnias, which are disordered sleep states that manifest during particular stages of sleep or sleep-wake transitions. These may occur during REM or NREM arousals.

Breathing Difficulties

Since alcohol has a sedative impact on the entire body, including the muscles, it may make it easier for your airway to constrict during sleep. This can significantly raise the risk of sleep apnea, especially if you consume alcohol within a few hours of bedtime.

The effects of alcohol on sleep are variable, so it is advisable not to sleep or to sleep in moderation, and to allow time for the alcohol to leave your system before going to bed. It is essential to cease drinking at least four hours before bedtime to prevent sleep disturbances.

Falling Asleep Without Consuming Alcohol

After a difficult day, many people rely on alcohol’s relaxing impact. They may believe that it decreases their tension about the day’s events and facilitates sleep. This everyday cycle increases the likelihood that a person will get reliant on alcohol to fall asleep.

Many people report that alcohol initially helps them fall asleep faster and sleep better at night, but after some time, they realize that alcohol interrupts sleep and makes the situation worse. At this point, they will attempt to break this habit.

It is difficult to break this habit and learn to sleep without alcohol. The concept of trying to sleep without alcohol might induce anxiety, which can lead to additional drinking, so prolonging the cycle of alcohol consumption. Thankfully, sleeping without alcohol is attainable if you implement the following strategies:

Good Sleeping Habits

In addition to reducing alcohol intake, adopting appropriate sleeping habits, often known as sleep hygiene, is a vital first step toward achieving adequate sleep.

Each day, you should ideally wake up and go to bed at the same time. Your bedroom should be calm and dimly lit. Caffeine and other stimulants should be avoided, especially at night.

Find a Method to Unwind

Find something that makes you feel at ease. Whether it’s yoga, stretching, reading, making a meal, or something else, soothing activities allow your brain to manufacture serotonin, which strengthens willpower and keeps you away from instant-gratification vices such as alcohol.

Tea or Carbonated Water

For heavy drinkers, the oral fixation of drinking a liquid can be problematic. Effective alternatives include sparkling water, which simulates the bubbles of beer, or tea. Particularly decaffeinated tea has a relaxing effect and might help you relax without causing jitters.

Take a Bath or Shower

The application of hot water to the skin can open pores and enhance the senses. Additionally, it stimulates blood flow and relaxes your muscles. Instead of popping the cork, pop some bubbles in the bath to create a spa-like atmosphere. Then, you can improve your relaxation with some sleep-inducing essential oils. You may wake up joyful and without a hangover.

Music, Television, and Books

There are numerous distractions in the home, including music, television, and a good book. If the mind and senses are otherwise busy, it is possible to delay the desire for that peaty Scotch.

Take a Walk

The old custom of taking an evening stroll around the neighborhood appears quite archaic. In addition to being a terrific way to get out of the house and explore the neighborhood, walking may also be an easy and healthy alternative to preparing a nightcap cocktail.

Don’t Replace One Substance with Another

It may be tempting to substitute another sleep aid for alcohol when giving up drinking at night. Do not use any medications that have not been specifically prescribed to assist you to sleep. Substituting one addiction with another is the last thing you want to do.

Benefits of Getting Enough Sleep

Getting sufficient rest and a good night’s sleep is often disregarded, yet getting a good night’s sleep is vitally necessary for your health. It is equally as vital as eating a healthy, balanced diet and exercising. Here are some advantages of getting sufficient sleep:

Boost Your Focus and Productivity

Sleep is necessary for a variety of brain functions. Sleep deprivation has detrimental effects on cognition, focus, productivity, and performance. Particular research on overworked physicians is illustrative.

It was discovered that clinicians with moderate, high, and very high sleep-related impairment were 54%, 96%, and 97% more likely to report clinically significant medical errors, respectively.

Similarly, enough sleep can enhance academic performance in children, adolescents, and young adults. It has been demonstrated that enough sleep improves problem-solving skills and memory function in both children and adults.

Bolster Your Heart

Insufficient quality and length of sleep may raise the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. One review of 19 studies indicated that sleeping less than 7 hours per night raised the chance of dying from heart disease by 13 percent.

Compared to 7 hours of sleep, each additional hour of sleep was related to a 6 percent increase in the risk of all-cause death and heart disease.

Moreover, short sleep appears to raise the risk of hypertension, particularly in people with obstructive sleep apnea – a disorder characterized by breathing interruptions during sleep.

One study indicated that persons who slept less than 5 hours each night were 61 percent more likely to develop hypertension than those who slept 7 hours. Intriguingly, greater than 9 hours of sleep per night in adults has been demonstrated to raise the risk of heart disease and hypertension.

Strong Immune System

It has been proven that sleep deprivation impairs immunological function. In one study, those who slept less than 5 hours each night were 4.5 times more likely to catch a cold than those who slept more than 7 hours. Those who slept 5–6 hours had a 4.24-fold increased risk.

Some evidence suggests that enough sleep may also increase the immune system’s response to influenza vaccines. Recent preliminary data suggests that adequate sleep before and after a COVID-19 vaccination may increase the vaccine’s efficacy. Still, additional research is necessary to properly comprehend this apparent association.


Simply reducing or quitting alcohol or other drugs can be sufficient to reverse their bad effects on sleep and improve your general health significantly.

As we already know, along with diet and exercise, sleep hygiene is one of the pillars of good health.

Sleep deprivation is related to numerous detrimental health impacts, including an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, depression, weight gain, inflammation, and illness. In the same way that you prioritize your food and physical exercise, it’s time to prioritize sleep.

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Please note: Although we refer to ‘alcoholism’ and ‘recovery’ in our articles, this is because these terms are often used by others. 

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Hi, I'm Michela

I’m a leader in the science of transformational freedom for women, and someone previously addicted to alcohol. I have walked the path. I understand your concerns and fears. Here you will find some of my thoughts and insights. Happy browsing!

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