Having a cocktail before bed as a “night cap” is not an uncommon practice. In fact, many people believe that a drink for bedtime actually helps them have a good night’s sleep. And why wouldn’t they? Alcohol before bedtime does a good job at making you feel relaxed and studies have shown that alcohol does make people fall asleep faster. So, besides the negative effects that alcohol can have on your health, why is it that drinking before for bed time is bad for your sleep?
Studies show that alcohol consumed within an hour of falling asleep disrupts the second half of the sleep cycle. Although you may be getting enough sleep, you don’t fall into the deeper, more replenishing REM sleep level. This can lead to excessive daytime sleepiness, problems with concentration and overeating. Studies show that a moderate dose of alcohol consumed as much as six hours before bedtime can increase wakefulness during the second half of sleep.
Drinking before sleep, especially with people who suffer from alcoholism, puts sleepers at a greater risk of sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a disorder in which air pressure narrows during sleep. This causes sleepers to wake up hundreds of times throughout the night without noticing. Sleep apnea increases a person’s chances of suffering from heart attack, arrhythmia, stroke and sudden death.
There are many ways you can fall asleep faster without having to resort to drinking alcohol. The time-honored techniques of reading a book before bed or getting plenty of exercise during the day still work and they won’t disturb your sleep. So next time you reach for a night cap why not reach for a good book instead?