If you’ve ever had a glass of wine and then couldn’t keep your eyes open, you might have asked yourself: “Why does alcohol make me sleepy?” You’re not alone!
Not only can alcohol make you feel tired, it can also make it difficult to get a good night’s sleep, leaving you feeling even more tired the next day.
Why does alcohol make me sleepy?
The medical explanation behind why alcohol makes you sleep is pretty confusing. In simpler terms, alcohol impacts your central nervous system. By affecting brain cells, alcohol makes the individual feel much more calm, relaxed, sedated and sleepy. It’s these effects of alcohol that can make an individual feel drowsy.
For those with a low alcohol tolerance, this reaction can happen fairly quickly. For those with a high tolerance, they will need to consume more alcohol before they feel the sedative effects of alcohol.
How does alcohol impact sleeping?
Stress hormone increase
Several hours after drinking alcohol, the body’s level of a stress hormone will increase, which in turn increases your heart rate and stimulates the body. This is why you might wake up in the middle of the night without any obvious reason.
Less REM sleep
When you drink alcohol in the evening, you’ll typically fall into a deep sleep much quicker than normal. Ever laid in bed after a night out on the town and fallen asleep immediately?
As you continue you sleep, you’ll stay in this deep sleep for longer, and spend less time in the more restful stage of sleep called Rapid Eye Movement, or REM sleep. REM sleep is really important for you to feel rested the following day. Less time in this stage of sleep means you’ll feel tired and drowsy the next day, even if you slept a lot.
Need the bathroom
Drinking alcohol in the evening can also cause the need to urinate more in the night, meaning you’ll be woken up and your sleep will be interrupted. Alcohol is a “diuretic” which means that it increases the rate of urination (fun stuff). So not only will you need to release the liquid from the alcohol you’ve drank, but it will also encourage extra fluid to release, too. In addition, alcohol can also encourage the body to sweat and lose fluid that way, too. All in all, it’s very easy to become dehydrated.
The sedative-element of alcohol can also relax the throat muscles while you sleep, causing worsening of breathing conditions, snoring and sleep apnea. Another reason why alcohol can cause trouble sleeping.
However, if you experience trouble breathing while drinking alcohol, it may be caused by something else. A common symptom of Asian Flush (or alcohol flush reaction) is difficulty breathing while consuming alcohol. Or, alcohol might be worsening pre-existing asthma. Make sure to keep an eye on this symptom, as it can be serious.
If you experiencing restricted breathing when drinking alcohol among other symptoms, make sure to check out our article about Asian Flush: Why does my face go red after drinking alcohol?
How can I sleep better after I drink alcohol?
If you drink alcohol before bed, it’s likely that you’re not going to sleep well. However, there are a few basic tips that you can try to lessen the affects of alcohol on your sleep:
- Typically it takes one hour to process one unit of alcohol in the body. Make sure to give your body time to process the alcohol before going to bed, so the alcohol will impact you less while you’re trying to sleep.
- Drink lots of water in-between alcoholic drinks. This helps keep you hydrated, lessens the amount of alcohol your body has to process and can reduce your hangover. Of course, you might need to get up more in the night, but water will help your body overall.
- Not all alcohol is created equal. Try having drinks with less alcohol content, such as mixed drinks or shandies. These types of alcoholic beverages have less alcohol than other choices, so it means your body will have less alcohol to process. In the end, it means a less-interrupted sleep.