It’s a common occurrence; you have a hard time falling asleep, and think a small drink before bed will help calm you down and help you fall asleep. You’re not wrong; having an alcoholic drink or two may likely induce sleep more quickly, as its sedative properties take your body over. But you may not know about alcohol’s impact on sleep once you’ve drifted off, and how harmful the overall impact can be.
Alcohol = Sedative? Alcohol’s Impact on Sleep
Alcohol’s sedative effect doesn’t last for long as our bodies quickly build a tolerance for the sedation of alcohol, and we find ourselves needing to consume more alcohol for the same ‘get-to-sleep’ effects. Before you know it, you’re relying all too heavily on alcohol to get you to sleep, and that’s just the start of problems for your brain and body.
Not only are you relying on the sedative effects of alcohol to put you to sleep (or too often, help you pass out), you are damaging the quality of your sleep as well. Research has shown that even small amounts of alcohol in our systems as we go to sleep have a tremendous impact on our sleep cycles and restorative sleep properties, and our entire night’s sleep is affected. Alcohol’s impact on sleep is multi-faceted and affects our bodies and our brains.
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How Does Alcohol Impact Our Sleep Rhythms?
Research shows that our brains have more slow-wave sleep patterns when we drink alcohol before bed, even a glass . This Delta activity is important for sleeping deeply and soundly while your brain imprints memories and committing learned things for later access. That sounds great in theory, but the problem is that alcohol before bed also brings with it Alpha activity.
Alpha activity doesn’t typically happen during sleep as much as when you’re resting but acting together, the alpha and delta activity can hinder your sleep and the restorative properties your brain gets from sleep. The alpha wave intrusion has also been linked with fatigue, sleep disorders, and major depressive disorders. In essence, alcohol before sleeping can mimic those degenerative conditions.
Our bodies also work on sleep and circadian rhythms. You might have heard the term and thought it nothing more than a pattern your body goes through daily, and at the core, that’s accurate. That said, circadian rhythms are physical and mental changes, and they primarily respond to darkness and light. This is why we tend to sleep at night and be awake during the day hours.
How Do Circadian Rhythm Disruptions Affect Our Health?
Experts believe that alcohol before bed affects the production of chemicals in our body that triggers our circadian rhythms to do their jobs. Yes, the production of sleep-inducing adenosine helps us fall asleep more quickly, but it doesn’t last long, and we tend to wake up more in the middle of the night. This means that we aren’t getting fully restorative sleep, and over time, this has a major impact on our brain and body functions.
We must maintain our body’s natural circadian rhythms as best we can. When we don’t, we can affect everything from our liver to our gut flora and microbiome. Our gut and microbiome are what many call the body’s second brain. When we affect our body’s circadian rhythms with alcohol consumption, we are also affecting our gut and could even lead to developing leaky gut syndrome. Our bodies and our brains depend on restorative sleep for overall health and wellness.
What Is Restorative Sleep and Why Is It So Important?
Perhaps you’ve heard of REM (Rapid-Eye Movement) Sleep and know it to be important to a good night’s rest. But do you know how important REM sleep is? It’s the truly way sleep ‘feeds’ one’s brain at night and is considered the most restorative type of sleep.
When one is in REM sleep, their brain activity is rapidly increased and restoring the taxation of the day’s events on the brain so that you can get up refreshed and ready to tackle the next day with vim and vigor. The problem with alcohol before bed, though, and particularly increasing amounts to help one fall asleep, is that alcohol blocks REM sleep.
And while at the surface, that feeling of grogginess and exhaustion the next day can leave one feeling miserable, repeated interruption of REM sleep can have other physiological effects too. When we sleep uninterruptedly, our brains take the opportunity to remove the neurotoxins we’ve encountered throughout the day. Interrupted sleep that brings about less REM sleep means our brains can’t efficiently clean those toxins out, which can set them up for higher risks of diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Excessive Alcohol Consumption Destroys Sleep Patterns
No, a glass of wine or a beer here or there before bed will not be a deal-breaker for good sleep habits for the rest of your life. But as is often the case with consuming alcohol for sleep induction or other physiological or psychological pain, our bodies need more and more alcohol to bring about the same effects. Initially, a glass of wine or a beer will be all we need to ‘put us to sleep.’ But, over time, our tolerance will build, and we’ll find ourselves struggling to get to sleep with the same amount. Before we know it, addiction sets in.
Sleep deprivation itself is a form of torture because we know how not getting restorative sleep can affect our entire lives. When alcohol use disorder is thrown into the mix, it’s a vicious cycle of can’t-win, exacerbated by conditions like sleepwalking, obstructive sleep apnea, exhaustion, and insomnia. Sadly, sleep deprivation can make alcohol recovery even more difficult and daunting.
This is where the caring and compassionate staff at Desert Cove Recovery comes in.
Recovering Your Sleep and Your Life
While alcohol’s impact on sleep is tremendously multi-faceted, the staff at Desert Cove Recovery knows that alcohol’s impact on your life is even greater. And, because we know sleep disturbances can hinder addiction recovery, they work with you through the process of recovery in a caring and individualized way. We take all of your concerns into account.
One of the most difficult things one has to do to begin recovery is to admit that addiction exists. When you’ve not been getting restorative sleep, you see things from a different angle. This admittance can be even more grueling.
Desert Cove Recovery understands this. We want to help you recover not only a good night’s sleep but your best life—the one you were meant to live before alcohol became dominant in your life. The rehab programs at Desert Cove were designed to help clients overcome addiction and lead happy and healthy lives, and this includes helping you learn to get through things in this life without relying on alcohol to do so.
There is hope for better sleep, better health, and happiness without alcohol, and you just need to take the first steps of contact with Desert Cove Recovery to start that path. Make the call; you deserve it.