Thrive with the Dry July Challenge – Join Now! 🎉🙌
Click Here
How Alcohol Affects Sleep Quality and the Potential for Sleep Disorders
Alcohol and Health

How Alcohol Affects Sleep Quality and the Potential for Sleep Disorders

Published:
July 3, 2024
·
8 min read
Reframe App LogoReframe App Logo
Written by
Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
July 3, 2024
·
8 min read
Reframe App LogoReframe App Logo
Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
July 3, 2024
·
8 min read
Reframe App LogoReframe App Logo
Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
July 3, 2024
·
8 min read
Reframe App LogoReframe App Logo
Reframe Content Team
July 3, 2024
·
8 min read

Understanding how alcohol impacts sleep quality and the potential for sleep disorders is crucial for anyone looking to build healthier drinking habits. Alcohol, though often used as a sleep aid, has profound effects on sleep architecture and quality, leading to potential long-term sleep disorders.

The Initial Sedative Effects of Alcohol

How Alcohol Affects Sleep Quality and the Potential for Sleep Disorders

Many people consume alcohol in the evening to relax and unwind, believing it helps them fall asleep faster. Indeed, alcohol has sedative properties that can induce drowsiness and facilitate the onset of sleep. This effect is primarily due to alcohol's action as a central nervous system depressant, which slows brain activity and promotes relaxation.

However, this initial sedative effect is misleading. While alcohol may help you fall asleep more quickly, it disrupts the overall architecture and quality of sleep throughout the night.

Disruption of the Sleep Cycle

Alcohol consumption disrupts the natural sleep-wake cycle, also known as the circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm regulates various physiological processes, including sleep. When alcohol is metabolized, it transitions from a stimulant to a depressant, leading to fragmented sleep and frequent awakenings during the night.

The Impact on REM Sleep

One of the most significant ways alcohol affects sleep quality is by suppressing Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. REM sleep is a crucial stage of the sleep cycle, vital for cognitive functions like memory consolidation, emotional processing, learning, and creativity. A study found that even moderate alcohol consumption can decrease REM sleep, leading to poorer quality sleep.

Why Is Alcohol Messing With My Sleep? explains that alcohol suppresses REM sleep and causes frequent awakenings as its effects wear off. This disruption leads to a lack of restorative sleep, leaving individuals feeling less refreshed in the morning.

The Rebound Effect

As the body metabolizes alcohol, a phenomenon known as the rebound effect occurs. Initially, alcohol increases levels of adenosine, a chemical that promotes sleep. However, as these levels drop rapidly, it can lead to awakenings during the second half of the night, resulting in fragmented sleep.

Here's What Alcohol Does to Your Dreams discusses how alcohol impacts dreaming and can lead to vivid or bizarre dreams due to the disruption in REM sleep. This can further contribute to the perception of a restless night.

Alcohol and Insomnia

Insomnia is a common sleep disorder characterized by difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up too early and being unable to go back to sleep. Alcohol exacerbates insomnia by disrupting the sleep cycle and reducing sleep quality.

Why Alcohol Makes Your Insomnia Worse highlights that while alcohol may initially help with sleep onset, it ultimately worsens insomnia by causing fragmented sleep and reducing overall sleep quality.

Chronic Insomnia and Alcohol Use

Chronic insomnia, defined as difficulty sleeping for at least three nights per week over three months, can be significantly impacted by alcohol use. The disrupted sleep patterns caused by alcohol can lead to a cycle of dependency, where individuals use alcohol to fall asleep but experience worsening sleep quality and increased insomnia symptoms over time.

Long-Term Health Consequences

Poor sleep quality and chronic sleep disorders have numerous long-term health consequences. Lack of restorative sleep affects nearly every bodily function, including metabolism, energy levels, mood, and immune function. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to serious health issues such as diabetes, depression, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.

Moreover, alcohol's impact on sleep can contribute to negative emotional processing, resulting in increased aggression, anger, and hopelessness. In extreme cases, it can lead to suicidal ideation.

Strategies for Better Sleep Without Alcohol

Achieving restful sleep without relying on alcohol is entirely possible with the right strategies and tips:

  1. Establish a Consistent Sleep Schedule: Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
  2. Create an Optimal Sleep Environment: Ensure your bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet. Invest in a comfortable mattress and pillows.
  3. Develop a Relaxing Evening Routine: Engage in calming activities before bed, such as reading, taking a warm bath, or practicing meditation.
  4. Limit Technology Use Before Bed: Reduce exposure to screens and blue light at least an hour before bedtime.
  5. Avoid Caffeine and Heavy Meals: Limit caffeine intake and avoid large meals close to bedtime.

Conclusion

Understanding how alcohol affects sleep quality and the potential for sleep disorders is essential for building healthier drinking habits. While alcohol may seem like a quick fix for sleep problems, it ultimately disrupts sleep architecture and leads to long-term sleep issues. Implementing healthier sleep practices can help achieve a restful night's sleep without relying on alcohol.

Master Your Triggers

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet hundreds of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol. 

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

Call to action to download reframe app for ios usersCall to action to download reframe app for android users
Reframe has helped over 2 millions people to build healthier drinking habits globally
Take The Quiz
Our Editorial Standards
At Reframe, we do science, not stigma. We base our articles on the latest peer-reviewed research in psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral science. We follow the Reframe Content Creation Guidelines, to ensure that we share accurate and actionable information with our readers. This aids them in making informed decisions on their wellness journey.
Learn more
Updated Regularly
Our articles undergo frequent updates to present the newest scientific research and changes in expert consensus in an easily understandable and implementable manner.
Table of Contents
Call to action for signing up reframe app
Relevant Articles
Ready to meet the BEST version of yourself?
Start Your Custom Plan
Call to action to download reframe app for ios usersCall to action to download reframe app for android users
review
31,364
5 Star Reviews
mobile
3,250,000+
Downloads (as of 2023)
a bottle and a glass
500,000,000+
Drinks Eliminated

Scan the QR code to get started!

Reframe supports you in reducing alcohol consumption and enhancing your well-being.

Ready To Meet the Best Version of Yourself?
3,250,000+ Downloads (as of 2023)
31,364 Reviews
500,000,000+ Drinks eliminated
Try Reframe for 7 Days Free! Scan to download the App