According to the American National Sleep Foundation, one in five American adults sometimes has a nightcap to make it easier to fall asleep.
But this admittedly effective way to fall into the realm of Morpheus has at least one side effect.
Why Do You Want to Sleep After Alcohol
First of all alcohol affects the brain and disrupts the normal production of chemicals, on which many processes in the body depend.
For example, a glass or two is known to increase the production of adenosine. This substance tells the brain that the cells in the body are tired, they lack energy and it is time to rest. The more adenosine, the more sleepy you become.
But falling asleep in this case does not mean getting a good night’s sleep.
How alcohol affects sleep
If the level of adenosine increases, then the melatonin – the hormone that is responsible for the quality of sleep, regulates its phase change and circadian rhythms in the body as a whole – on the contrary, it becomes less. And significantly so. 50 grams of vodka (200 grams of weak wine or 400 ml of beer) is enough to lower the melatonin level by nearly 20%.
For the body this means the following. The biological clock, which is directly dependent on melatonin, begins to malfunction. The architecture of sleep, that is, the sequence of its main phases, is disrupted.
Normally, sleep consists of two phases.
Slow sleep phase. It occurs immediately after falling asleep and lasts about 90 minutes. Slow sleep is similar to narcosis: the body is as relaxed as possible, the brain is inactive. No dreaming, no movement, complete relaxation necessary for physical recovery.
Fast sleep phase. This follows a slow one and lasts 5-20 minutes. During this period the brain is active, we dream. If a slow sleep is necessary more for the physical recovery of the body, a fast sleep helps the nervous system: it relieves mental tension and fatigue, refreshes the memory, improves concentration.
They follow each other, two phases – one sleep cycle. On average, we go through five cycles during the night. This is enough to feel awake and rested in the morning.
But alcoholic sleep is different from normal sleep. After a drink, we fall into a deep, slow, dreamless sleep due to a disruption in melatonin production. It lasts longer than normal. On the contrary, the phase of REM sleep is shortened or disappears altogether.
As a result, when we wake up after a drink, we feel broken. Reactions are slowed down, it is difficult to focus on something, memory fails, nerves go to hell. The reasons are clear: the nervous system simply has not had time to recover.
These are not all the sleep disorders that alcohol leads to. Here are a few more.
Morning insomnia. You wake up at or before dawn and can no longer fall asleep, even though you obviously did not get enough sleep. This is due to all the same dropped melatonin levels.
Nocturnal apnea. This is the name given to sleep apnea. Most often it happens during the slow phase of sleep, when the muscles are relaxed. And slow sleep, flavored with alcohol, is especially deep.
Frequent awakenings in the second half of the night. By this time, the body begins to actively get rid of processed alcohol through the kidneys and bladder.
How to drink to get enough sleep
The best way to get a good night’s sleep is to avoid drinking alcohol at night after all. If for some reason you can’t give up alcohol, be safe.
1. Do not drink too much.
Physicians define the norm quite clearly: no more than one drink per day for women and men older than 65 years, and no more than two drinks for men younger.
“One drink” in this case is:
- 355 ml of beer of about 5% strength;
- 237-266 ml of malt liquor of about 7% strength;
- 148 ml of wine of about 12% strength;
- 44 ml of alcohol with 40% strength.
2. Drink slowly.
This is to allow the liver time to deactivate and excrete the alcohol before it seriously affects the biochemical processes in the body.
3. Snack on
Food in the stomach slows the absorption of alcohol and thus makes it easier for the liver to function.
4. Drink at least 3 to 4 hours before going to bed.
During this time, melatonin levels will return to normal, which means healthy sleep.
5. Don’t mix alcohol with sleeping pills
Alcohol depresses breathing, as do most sleeping pills. This combination is extremely dangerous because it can lead to respiratory failure.