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Published On: May 15, 2024|Categories: Substance Abuse|

Having a drink before bedtime to calm one’s thoughts is not unusual – it is literally called a “nightcap” for this very reason. It has the stereotype of being a good little nighttime ritual and providing a relaxed state of mind before drifting off to sleep, but is that actually what alcohol does? 

Does it truly relax you enough to put you (and, more importantly, keep you) sleeping soundly throughout the course of the night?

Studies contrary to popular belief say probably not. 

Should you drink alcohol before bed?

It is undeniable that alcohol enhances that sleepy time feel – adenosine is released by alcohol and this chemical in the brain leads to that feeling of sleepiness. But as the alcohol wears off, the body is likely to awaken more quickly and frequently, thus leading to a very disturbed night of sleep.

In addition, drinking alcohol before bed can: 

  • Interrupt REM sleep
  • Worsen snoring
  • Pause breathing (known as obstructive sleep apnea)
  • Cause headaches
  • Lead to nightmares
  • Induce night sweats

If you feel like you need to drink alcohol before bed in order to fall asleep, it may be worth looking into treatment for insomnia or seeking out the guidance of a sleep specialist. Or, you may consider how frequently you rely on alcohol to cope with situations in your life and may consider the benefits of speaking with a therapist who can help you learn healthy coping mechanisms.

When should I stop drinking alcohol before bed?

According to the Sleep Foundation, “Research has shown that those who drink large amounts of alcohol before bed are more likely to take less time to fall asleep, but are also more likely to experience sleep disruptions and decreases in sleep quality. However, since the effects of alcohol are different from person to person, even small amounts of alcohol can reduce sleep quality for some people.”

It is recommended that at least four hours pass between the time you have your final drink and the time you go to bed. This allows the body to metabolize the alcohol fully and minimizes the possibility of sleep disruptions. That being said, it does depend on the person, and some may need even longer to metabolize it depending on how much alcohol they consumed.

Healthy bedtime habits 

If you have used alcohol as a means of falling asleep, don’t panic – there are plenty of alternative, effective methods you can implement in your life that promote healthy sleep and give you a better chance of falling and staying asleep all night long. 

Craft a bedtime routine

If you have a routine before bed, the moment you begin carrying out that routine, your body will clue into the fact that it is time to start shutting down. You may wash your face, drink a mug of tea, and lay in bed with a book for a while. Maybe you have a routine of pre-bedtime yoga and meditation. Maybe you write in a gratitude journal.

Whatever you decide to pursue, do your best to follow the same routine every night, starting close to the same time. This will help trigger your brain’s need to shut down, hopefully helping you fall asleep and stay asleep all night long. 

Turn off screens

The blue light from computer screens is notorious for keeping people up at night, as the light triggers the brain and does the opposite of lulling it to sleep. Consider shutting screens off at least an hour before bedtime, using that hour to instead carry out your pre-bedtime routine. 

Use a sound machine

If you have a fan on or utilize the calming white noise of an app or sound machine, you may find that the white noise dulls out the sounds of the city or the house and helps to keep you asleep through the night. Additionally, the noise will also act as a trigger that induces sleepiness and may lead to better quality sleep. 

Make your room comfortable

If you use your room for work, activity, or more than just peace and relaxation, your brain may not view it as a space in which to relax and rest. For this reason, try to keep your room comfortable and restful. Consider blackout curtains, a cooler temperature, or whatever else you need to make it an environment in which you can sleep.

Seeking help for an alcohol use disorder?

If you continue to struggle with sleep quality as a result of consuming heavy amounts of alcohol before bed, you may want to consider the benefits of speaking with a therapist who can help. The team of professionals at High Focus Centers is here to guide you through the personalized process of recovery.

To get in touch today, contact High Focus Centers by calling 866-204-7306 or contacting us online. 

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