Does Alcohol Help You Sleep Better?
Alcohol may make you feel drowsy and fall asleep quicker, but it can have a detrimental effect on the quality of your sleep.
Avoiding the gin and juice
Depending on how much I used to drink, I thought that in some cases alcohol helped me to have a deeper level of sleep. No problem if I had a hangover the next day, all I needed was a few shots of coffee and loads of water and I’d be good.
However I made the mistake of drinking too close to a test once and thought that I could pull through with just coffee and water, but as you can guess things didn’t go according to plan.
As I have a few friends that drink heavily and always seem to bounce back unphased I wanted to figure out what I was doing wrong and what they did right. But, what I found out, with regards to productivity at least, changed my view of alcohol.
A Drink Helps Me Sleep
It’s understandable. You’ve had a long, stressful day and want to unwind. It feels like too much effort to get up and do some exercise. A glass of wine or a can of beer helps you to relax.
Soon after you find yourself feeling less tense but drowsy, and you may even fall asleep on the sofa. Or perhaps for the past few days you’ve been finding it difficult to get to sleep, but after a drink, you seem to fall asleep faster.
So how can this be bad for my sleep? When talking with friends about this it seems that we all tend to agree that a light drink actually helps your sleep and doesn’t affect your productivity the next day.
But then I found a study on the effects of alcohol on sleep, which I found surprisingly interesting, not just because it was an interesting read, but also because it challenged some of my assumptions about sleep and alcohol.
The Productivity Disruptor
According to the study, there have been many studies documenting the negative effects of even low dosages of alcohol on sleep quality and next day productivity.
Not surprisingly the heavier the drinking session, the worse the hangover effects, but also the worse the quality of sleep and next day productivity levels.
Relative to their habitual night of sleep, Sleep Quality was significantly worse after the drinking session that produced the hangover. On the hangover day, daytime sleepiness was significantly elevated.Schrojenstein Lantman, M., Roth, T., Roehrs, T., & Verster, J. (2017). Alcohol Hangover, Sleep Quality, and Daytime Sleepiness. /Sleep and Vigilance,/ /1(1),/ 37-41.
…Sleep quality and daytime sleepiness were significantly associated with the presence and severity of various individual hangover symptoms.
The top reported hangover symptoms included but weren’t limited to:
- Dry Mouth
- Reduced reaction speed
- Concentration problems
What I found fascinating was the similarities between hangover symptoms and caffeine withdrawal symptoms. It may be the reason why I thought that drinking lots of water and having a few shots of coffee was a legitimate cure for hangovers, as when you have caffeine withdrawal symptoms, drinking a coffee helps get rid of those symptoms very quickly!
So although alcohol may make you feel drowsy and fall asleep quicker, it actually can have a detrimental effect on the quality of your sleep. Ok, so what should you do about it?
The easy answer, don’t drink close to bedtime (or give up alcohol completely) and get more sleep.
The more nuanced answer (for those that may suffer regularly from hangovers) is to:
- Reduce the amount of alcohol that you consume when you have a busy schedule and don’t drink so close to bed time.
- If you have a hangover whilst working, if possible take regular breaks and sneak a nap when you can.
- Drink lots of water to rehydrate yourself.
- It may be best to take the day off work to get yourself back to your normal productive self.
Sleep is important, you don’t need me to tell you that. If you have a heavy workload or study schedule, it may be best to skip the drinks until things get a bit less hectic.
If you find that you have a hangover or just a bit fuzzy from the night before, be kind to yourself (and others) and take it easy until you are back to your normal self.
If you are having difficulty focussing whilst giving up caffeine and/or alcohol, or in general, our app V-CAF can help. It’s an Apple Watch app that notifies you when your alertness levels drop so that you can take the appropriate steps to boost your alertness.
It’s available now on the App Store, download it today.