Alcohol influences sleep significantly. Its most obvious impact is shortening the time to fall asleep (sleep latency), which is why it is a popular aid for people who have difficulty falling asleep.
It increases the amount of deep sleep during the first half of the night as well. This may be viewed as a sleep quality “improver” because this type of sleep is restorative. Growth hormone secretion and tissue repair occur during deep sleep.
The downside comes in the second half of the night: fragmented sleep and less overall REM sleep. Lack of REM sleep can cause memory issues, motor skills deterioration and attention deficit. This happens because REM sleep has an important role in promoting learning skills and memory consolidation.
The consumption of alcohol decreases respiratory drive and increases muscle relaxation. This means that alcohol can trigger sleep-related breathing disorders or worsen existing sleep apnea. In addition, it increases a person’s propensity to experience parasomnias such as sleepwalking.
The magnitude of the effects correlates to the amount of alcohol consumed.
How can you improve your sleep?
Track your sleep for a few days to identify sleep-wake patterns and to measure sleep duration, efficiency and structure. Your perception of sleep quality differences after using or not using alcohol will help you to determine when – and how much – alcohol is good for you.