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The Relationship Between Alcohol and Sleep

long term effects of alcohol abuse

Studies have shown that alcohol can affect the quality of sleep. It disrupts our circadian rhythm, which regulates the body’s temperature. It also keeps your body tied to a 24-hour cycle. This rhythm regulates hormones such as melatonin and core body temperatures. When you drink alcohol before bedtime, these hormones are lower, and the body’s temperature rises, making your sleep less restful.

Alcohol can also affect our body’s melatonin levels, disrupting our sleep and alertness during the day. In addition, alcohol can cause us to wake up more frequently.

One study showed that drinking alcohol before bedtime reduced restorative sleep quality. Even moderate drinking decreased the quality of sleep by twenty-four percent. However, if high-drinkers drank alcohol before bed, their sleep quality dropped by almost 40%. Alcohol also interferes with the sleep cycle, particularly in the REM stage, where dreams occur. Read more to learn about health problems caused by Alcohol use disorder.

Don’t Mix Good Night Sleep with Alcohol

Binge drinking can also affect the quality of sleep. Studies have shown that people who binge drink weekly are more likely to have difficulty falling and staying asleep. This can affect people of any age, from teenagers to middle-aged adults. But, it is particularly true for women.

In addition to impairing your sleep, drinking alcohol can increase your risk of obstructive sleep apnea and snoring. Both types of sleeping disorders result in irregular breathing patterns, making it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. The combination of alcohol and apnea is associated with an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and sudden death.

Research also concludes that consuming alcohol moderates the association between anxiety and sleep quality. People with mild anxiety had better sleep after drinking a few drinks, while people with severe anxiety reported worse sleep quality. 

Therefore, alcohol should not be used as a sleep aid if your insomnia is interfering with your ability to sleep. The best way to deal with such an issue is to seek professional help. You can get help from the Haven Detox best rehab center in South Florida, to live a life free of drug and alcohol addiction.

Alcohol and Complex Sleep Apnea

Apnea is a complex sleep disorder, and alcohol consumption can be a risk factor for sleep apnea. Research has suggested that it may be related to sleep-disordered breathing. To evaluate the relationship between alcohol consumption and the development of sleep apnea, a 61-year-old man with AUD was referred to a sleep laboratory for sleep apnea. He had been involved in three road accidents and blamed them on sleepiness, likely related to his sleep-disordered breathing. This individual was placed on high-dose baclofen, and his alcohol consumption was decreased. He was treated for two years with baclofen, 100 mg bid.

Alcohol can cause sleep apnea by altering the natural state of sleep. The substance changes how much and how long a person sleeps and can also affect how their bodies breathe during sleep, as alcohol relaxes the muscles in the airway. It is recommended that people with sleep apnea abstain from drinking alcohol, especially before going to bed. They should also make sure to use a sleep apnea treatment every night to treat the condition. For getting quality treatment, consult with the Haven Detox professional doctors.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

Symptoms of sleep apnea can include:

These conditions are made worse by alcohol, and the combination of the two can cause severe problems. In addition to being a risk factor for developing sleep apnea, heavy drinking also increases the risk of developing OSA.

What Can You Do?

Alcohol can also make the REM stage of sleep less effective. REM sleep is critical for learning and memory, and disrupting this cycle can lead to various issues. Therefore, getting a CPAP machine, especially after drinking alcohol, is essential to maintain a normal airway during sleep. Alcohol consumption and sleep disorders are closely related, and it is necessary to get a proper diagnosis.

Complex sleep apnea is associated with a higher index of events per hour than normal sleep. There is also a higher incidence of heart failure and cardiovascular disease among patients with Compass. However, this association has not been fully established. Treatment of this disorder involves continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). This device is most effective when used under normal conditions. 

However, alcohol consumption can make CPAP ineffective. Therefore, a device that automatically adjusts its pressures throughout the night is ideal.

The second option is to get full-time monitoring in the eyes of the professional. You can receive treatment from The Haven Detox facility. Our comfortable environment provides relief and less pain as you pass through the painful withdrawal.

How Alcohol Impacts the Different Stages of Sleep

Researchers have conducted computerized EEG studies to study how alcohol affects sleep. These studies have revealed subtle effects of alcohol, which may differ by brain region. However, few studies have examined acute alcohol’s impact on the EEG power spectra. However, one study reported that beta power decreased in alcoholics during the first half of the night while alpha power increased. These findings were replicated in another study conducted on European and African American alcoholics.

Various studies have been conducted to determine how alcohol affects the different stages of sleep. Four sets of sleep make up a typical sleep cycle, including:

  • Three non-rapid eye movement (NREM) stages
  • One rapid eye movement (REM) stage.

Researchers have also noted that alcohol can impact the REM stage of sleep. While the effects of alcohol on REM sleep are mostly dose-related, repeated exposure to alcohol decreases the duration of REM sleep. In addition, alcohol also reduces NREM sleep patterns.

Stage 1 (NREM)

The body will start to shut down during this first stage, effectively transitioning between wakefulness and sleep. The sleeper’s muscles begin to relax as their heart rate, breathing, and eye movements slow down. Additionally, there is a decrease in brain activity. Light sleep is another name for this stage.

Stage 2 (NREM)

As the sleeper moves into a deeper state of sleep, their breathing and heart rates continue to slow. Additionally, their body temperature will drop, and their eyes will stop moving. The second stage of the sleep cycle is typically the longest.

Stage 3 (NREM)

Heart, respiration, and brain activity all reach their lowest points during sleep. The muscles are completely still, and the eyes stop moving. This stage is known as slow-wave sleep.


REM sleep begins roughly 90 minutes after someone first drifts off to sleep. The sleeper’s breathing and heartbeat will speed up, and their eye movements will resume. Dream mainly occurs during REM sleep. Additionally, it is believed that this phase contributes to memory consolidation.

The majority have found that alcohol causes a significant increase in slow-wave sleep, also known as deep sleep. During this sleep phase, the body repairs tissues and builds bone and muscle. It also appears to strengthen the immune system. Despite this, the effects of alcohol on sleep are not yet fully understood.

Long-Term Effects of Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol and sleep have a complex relationship. The sedative effect of alcohol disrupts the sleep cycle and can contribute to sleep disorders.

Chronic Problems

Long-term alcohol abuse can also cause chronic problems in sleep. Many people with alcohol use disorders report symptoms of insomnia. Alcohol also affects the muscles of the throat, which causes abnormal breathing during sleep. This leads to sleep apnea, a severe condition where the sleeper stops breathing for up to 10 seconds at a time.

People who drink alcohol may experience sleep disturbances that mimic insomnia. However, these issues can be easily treated or prevented before the problem gets worse. The best way to prevent such cases is to avoid alcohol consumption. Nevertheless, many people choose alcohol as a solution to combat their sleep problems. Alcohol, however, complicates these problems and can even affect sobriety.

Central Nervous System

It also depresses the central nervous system, making it more likely to disrupt sleep. Studies have also shown that alcohol can disrupt sleep by disrupting the REM stage of sleep. People who drink alcohol before bedtime are also more likely to experience sleep disruptions and decreased sleep quality. The effects of alcohol on sleep are different for everyone.

Alcohol alters the function of two brain chemicals that regulate sleep: serotonin and norepinephrine. Serotonin regulates slow-wave sleep, while norepinephrine is associated with REM sleep. The precise mechanisms of these chemicals are not understood. However, some researchers believe alcohol can alter these chemical messengers’ functions and sleep patterns.

Alcohol withdrawal may cause changes in brain structures. For instance, it may alter the excitatory and inhibitory systems essential to recovery. Consequently, it may also lead to changes in electroencephalographic sleep manifestations. Therefore, future studies should examine the interactions between alcohol withdrawal and sleep disorders.

Decrease the Level of Hormone

Alcohol decreases the level of the hormone melatonin in the body. Alcohol also interferes with the body’s core temperature, affecting sleep quality.

The graphic explains the effects of drinking alcohol on sleep patterns.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How does alcohol affect sleep?

Alcohol is a sedative. Therefore, drinkers often experience a shorter onset of sleep, and some experience rapid-induction deep sleep. It creates an imbalance between slow-wave sleep and REM sleep as the night continues.

Do you sleep worse when you drink?

Drinking alcohol before bed can cause your sleep cycle to be disrupted and result in a poorer quality of sleep. It also contributes to sleep apnea, snoring, and increased bathroom visits. Alcohol also alters the circadian rhythm of your body, which helps regulate sleep and wake cycles.

Do you sleep better with alcohol?

Alcohol can help you fall asleep more quickly. However, it is a depressive. Alcoholism signs are thought to disappear after a few hours as your body works to remove the alcohol from your system.

Safe Detoxify with Haven Detox Rehab Center

About ten to fifteen percent of the general population in the United States experiences sleep problems. Most of them have a problem with maintaining sleep and are experiencing nonrestorative sleep. Thirty percent of these people have used alcohol to help them fall asleep or stay asleep at some point in the past year.

Haven Detox Rehab Center is one of the best and safest facilities providing evidence-based addiction treatment. Here, you get treated and get quality detoxification. You can also take our Cognitive Behavioral therapies to identify the thoughts and behaviors that lead to alcohol abuse. Our counseling services and holistic treatment methods benefit the mind and body during recovery. 

Learn more about our residential treatment and outpatient rehab services by calling us at (561) 328-8627.

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