Alcohol and sleep guide

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Alcohol is a fickle friend of sleep

At first, it might seem like a drink or two (or more) could help you sleep better. But the fact is, while alcohol may help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the first few hours, it actually disturbs sleep for the rest of the night: sleep will be more fragmented, you are likely to wake more frequently, and you may even wake up earlier than usual and be unable to go back to sleep. Alcohol is thus a very fickle friend of sleep. That is the main conclusion of the just-released “Alcohol and Sleep,” the latest publication in Éduc’alcool’s “Alcohol and Health” series.

Many drinkers believe that alcohol facilitates sleep, but the research shows clearly that, although alcohol is a sedative, it disrupts the sleep cycle, it aggravates certain sleep disorders, and its impact can even be felt the next day.

Alcohol is no remedy for insomnia

A small amount of alcohol before sleeping generally has little or no effect on the stages of sleep, but a large amount has a more pronounced impact over the course of the night.

This makes alcohol a poor substitute for sleeping pills, particularly for anyone who is susceptible to sleep disorders. Such people should definitely drink moderately or not at all before going to bed.

Alcohol can also aggravate certain sleep disorders, notably insomnia, sleep apnea and snoring. And yet, 4% of all Quebecers and 10% of those who suffer from insomnia use alcohol to treat their sleep problems. Unfortunately, doing so even occasionally is a very bad idea.

Attentiveness and functioning the next day

Research shows that, the day after an episode of heavy drinking, people’s ability to accomplish divided-attention tasks is impaired, due to the effect of alcohol abuse on the sleep cycle. Excessive drinking can indirectly affect attentiveness and functioning the next day; and while the overall impairment may be minor, the impact can be significant if the tasks involved are complex or dangerous. Lack of sleep is the main reason people feel bad the day after tying one on. Nobody sleeps well after getting drunk.

As is often the case when alcohol is involved, it’s the dose that makes the poison, and this new Éduc’alcool report on the impact of alcohol on sleep drives that point home. It is also a reminder that, no matter how you look at it, moderation is always in good taste.

Content and availability

The new Éduc’alcool report is designed to explain the effects of alcohol on sleep, and separate myth from reality when it comes to yet another negative consequence of excessive drinking.

The report examines the relationship between drinking and sleep, explaining the different sleep stages and why alcohol is such a fickle friend of sleep. It also exposes the link between alcohol and certain sleep disorders.

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