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Alcohol And Sleep

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Update: June 7, 2023
5 min read

Written by

Manya Mishra
Content Writer
Alcohol And Sleep

“I am an occasional drinker. However, it’s normal to drink with friends on weekends and sometimes for societal peer pressures”.  

Do you, too, have a story to claim that it’s normal to drink occasionally? If yes, you might be unaware of the negative consequences of alcohol. Regular drinking before sleep may become an obsession with prolonged alcohol use. The relationship between alcohol and sleep needs to be assessed as the effects of alcohol on sleep significantly affect the quality of life. 

Keep reading till the end if you want to know what those effects are. Also, we have shared a few tips on how to drink responsibly.

How Does Alcohol Affect Sleep

Does alcohol help you sleep? The answer is yes, but with negative consequences. You will be aware of the problems and dangers of alcohol if you know how alcohol affects sleep. It also causes various neurological and mental disorders due to the melatonin and alcohol relation. The alcohol gets absorbed into the bloodstream from the stomach and small intestine after consumption. The enzymes in the liver metabolise alcohol; however, this process is relatively slow. Therefore, the excess liquor gets enough time to circulate throughout the body. Alcohol’s effects on the human body depend on the quantity consumed, how quickly it is consumed, the person’s body constitution, age, sex, and physical shape. 

It has been observed that there is a relationship between sleep deprivation and alcohol. This is because the body’s metabolism occurs even when we are sleeping; thus, blood alcohol levels drop off at night, disrupting sleep quality.

There are four stages of sleep- three non-rapid eye movements (NREM) and one rapid eye movement (REM) stage.

  1. Stage 1 (NREM)- This phase is the transition period between wakefulness and sleep. In this process the heartbeat, breathing rate, and eye movements start to slow down, and the muscles start to relax. This phase is known as light sleep.
  1. Stage 2 (NREM)- In this stage, the heartbeat and breathing rate slow down further, leading to deep sleep. The body temperature decreases, and eye movements become still. This stage of sleep is the most prolonged of the four sleep stages. 
  1. Stage 3 (NREM)- This slow-wave sleep phase reduces the heartbeats, breathing rate and brain activities even further. The eye movements too stop entirely. 
  1. Stage 4 (REM)- A person experiences the REM sleep stage after 90 minutes of falling asleep. The heart rate and breathing rate increase, and the eye movements start again. This phase is known as the dreaming phase stage.

Moreover, alcohol consumption at dusk suppresses REM rest. Though liquor helps a person to sleep fast, reaching a deep sleep phase in a short period is considered unhealthy. There is an imbalance at every sleep stage as the night progresses, resulting in poor sleep quality.

What Stage Of Sleep Is Most Disrupted By Alcohol

Drinking alcohol before sleep produces adenosine, a chemical that aids in slumber. Thus, you feel sleepy and grumpy after alcohol consumption, believing it is suitable for making you fall asleep quickly. However, it subsides quickly, too, waking you frequently in the middle of the night. A change is observed in the amount, duration, and quality of sleep in every sleep stage. The delta and alpha activities of the sleep patterns are affected, resulting in less REM sleep, early morning awakenings, and difficulty staying asleep. Thus, there is a relation between alcohol and REM sleep.  

REM is considered the most vital phase of sleep. It is essential for memory consolidation and emotional health, which gets disrupted by alcohol. Therefore, if you are curious how long before bed you should stop drinking alcohol, try drinking three hours before sleep to mitigate the drink’s effects on your REM sleep stage.

Alcohol Intake Vs Sleep Quality Deterioration

A 2018 study by Finnish researchers found that whether alcohol consumption is light, moderate, or heavy, it significantly affects your bedtime quality. Alcohol intake disturbs cardiovascular relaxation during sleep. The sleep/alcohol habits analysis of 4,098 adults between the age of 18-65 years showed that the sleep quality was reduced by 9.3% for low alcohol intake; by 24% for moderate alcohol intake (two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women); and by 40% of heavy alcohol intake. The study showed that men, women, and both active and sedentary individuals were equally affected by alcohol. Younger people were more affected as compared to older adults.

Alcohol And Insomnia

If you have ever wondered why does alcohol makes me sleepy, the reason lies in excessive drinking at night. People drinking before bed face disturbance in their REM sleep, leading to insomnia. Thus, they depend on caffeine and other stimulants to keep themselves awake.

Furthermore, they depend on drinks to overcome the caffeine stimulant effects at night. Thus, this vicious cycle leads to sleep troubles, and the blood alcohol level increases by 0.08% or higher. Binge drinking can also lead to sleep disruption. Prolonged alcohol use may lead to chronic sleep problems such as narcolepsy. It can be dangerous if the person gets a narcolepsy episode attack while driving and cannot remember anything after waking up.

Alcohol and Sleep Apnea

Does alcohol keep you awake? Yes, alcohol causes sleep disorders and keeps you awake most of the time. Study shows that alcohol increases the risk of sleep apnea,  a breathing disorder causing abnormal breathing patterns during sleep. A physical blockage in the back of the throat causes a condition known as obstructive sleep apnea. Repeated episodes of partial or complete upper airway collapse lead to starting and stopping the breathing process during sleep.

Furthermore, when the brain fails to signal the muscles to control breathing, it causes a central sleep apnea disorder. In this disorder, a person faces numerous problems breathing, such as snoring and making noises through the mouth or nose. The throat muscles are relaxed due to alcohol exaggerating the sleep apnea symptoms. Therefore, while serving yourself another drink, consider the alcohol’s consequences on your body and health next time.

How To Drink and Sleep Responsibly

Drinking alcohol responsibly is where you know your limits and never exceed them. Let’s learn some tips to drink and sleep responsibly. 

  • Try to drink alcohol three hours before sleep.
  • Keep yourself hydrated while drinking to flush out the alcohol.
  • Avoid alcohol if you take sleeping pills, as they act as depressants. Combining both may have detrimental effects on your health.
  • Use a habit tracker app to keep a check on your drinking habits.
  • Reduce alcohol intake gradually.
  • Keep yourself hydrated, exercise regularly, indulge in hobbies and music to calm and relax your mind, and practice bed rituals for better sleep.
  • Surround yourself with people who care for you rather than pressurise you for alcohol consumption.
  • Join a community of people who share methods and experiences to minimise alcohol intake.


We hope that now you are well aware of the effects of alcohol on sleep. Reducing it or cutting it down will benefit you and prevent you from getting into a vicious cycle of causing detrimental health effects. Of course, you need not quit drinking altogether. However, being mindful and responsible while drinking will help you enjoy your occasional serving with your friends and peers.


Can alcoholics have trouble sleeping?

Alcoholics experience sleep issues more frequently than nonalcoholics, which can have severe clinical and financial repercussions. 

Why do you get insomnia when you quit drinking?

Alcoholics mostly face insomnia or difficulty sleeping even after they quit due to withdrawal symptoms. 

How long before bed should you stop drinking alcohol?

You should stop drinking alcohol at least four hours before bedtime to lower the risk of sleep disruptions.

Will 2 beers affect sleep?

  1. Will 2 beers affect sleep?

One drink has been shown to reduce the quality of sleep. High alcohol intake decreases restorative sleep quality by up to 39.2%, while moderate alcohol consumption decreases it by 24%.


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Written by

Manya Mishra
Content Writer
Bachelor's Degree in English Literature 7 years of experience as a content writer Has experience writing for various industries, including health and wellness, travel, and technology

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