While Having A Drink Before Bed Can Relax Your Muscles And Indeed Lead To Falling Asleep Faster In Reality Your Body Is Not Achieving Restorative Sleep When Youve Been Drinking
Even if we arent talking about enough alcohol to land you with a head-ringing hangover the next day, your nighttime celebration alters your sleeping brain wave patterns,1 so even if youre in bed sleeping for several hours, youll likely feel tired the next morning. Add Obstructive Sleep Apnea to the mix, and you are going to pay a heavier price than you may have bargained for when you accepted that last round at the end of the night.
What Is Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a condition that causes irregular breathing during sleep. People with sleep apnea usually experience multiple and extended pauses in breathing while they sleep. Not only is it difficult to get a full eight hours of sleep with this condition, but the pattern of extended pauses in breathing also limits the bodys oxygen supply. Over time, this can cause further health problems that may require medical assistance.
There are three types of sleep apnea:
- Central sleep apnea : the airway is blocked.
- Obstructive sleep apnea : the brain is unable to properly control muscles that regulate breathing, resulting in shorter and more shallow breaths.
- Mixed sleep apnea: a person has both CSA and OSA.
Sleep apnea is not only uncomfortable but extremely dangerous. Those who attempt to withstand this condition without medical assistance put themselves at risk of negative health repercussions. The effects of sleep apnea are highly uncomfortable and may become more dangerous as the condition worsens.
Signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Feeling sleepy during the day
- Repeated episodes of pauses in breathing during sleep
- Waking up choking or gasping abruptly while sleeping
- Waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat
- High blood pressure
- Waking up with a headache
- Excessive sweating while sleeping
- Mood swings
How Does Alcohol Affect Sleep Apnea
Compared to the general population you are more likely to have OSA if you are:
- Obese or overweight
- Older or middle-aged
- Have anatomy that narrows the airway
About 20 per cent of Americans have obstructive sleep apnea, and only 10% have a diagnosis . Even if you dont have a diagnosis, there is a strong association between alcohol and OSA. Especially if you already snore and have alcohol use disorder, you may be at higher risk for developing OSA.
Research studies show that people who dont even have the condition moderate or heavy drinking can cause episodes of obstructive sleep apnea.
For those with OSA, the consequences of sleep apnea become more pronounced when you drink because it relaxes your muscles and diminishes your arousal response time.
Arousal response is how your body knows to wake up when you cant breathe because of a blocked airway. Alcohol reduces this arousal response time. It means that you wont wake up as quickly when your breathing stops because of OSA. In short, it increases the time between when you stop breathing and wake up to breathe again.
If you stop breathing, it could take longer to wake up. It means youll be without oxygen for an extended period. It makes the drops in your bloods oxygen levels. It may lead to increased carbon dioxide in the body, which, in severe cases, can be fatal.
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Insomnia After Binge Drinking
Binge drinking occurs when a man has five drinks, or a woman has four drinks within two hours. This pattern of drinking is linked to insomnia, which can develop after binging. One study on binge drinking and insomnia found that people who binged two days a week had an 84% higher chance of having insomnia.
What Occurs During Sleep
To understand how alcohol and sleep apnea are connected, its important to understand sleep itself. Sleep has two main stages, with a small transitional period between them: slow wave and rapid eye movement types of sleep. Slow wave sleep is the deep, restorative state of sleep that makes up 75% of your nightly sleep. During this time, your brain waves slow down and relax.
In contrast, rapid eye movement sleep is light and often characterized by movement in the eyes. The body seems to require this type of sleep as well in order to be fully rested.
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How Alcohol Affects Sleep Apnea
So, how does alcohol affect sleep apnea? Although alcohol is not considered a direct cause of sleep apnea, drinking can definitely worsen sleep apnea and increase a persons risk of developing it. Sleep apnea is caused by the relaxation in the muscles of the mouth and throat, blocking the persons airway. Because alcohol is a depressant, it causes muscle relaxation. It also prevents the body from physically responding to any changes, like the inability to breathe. This means the person wont immediately wake up even though their body may be signaling the lack of oxygen. If a person whos been drinking stops breathing in their sleep, the effects of alcohol will make it difficult for them to wake up. The longer they go without oxygen, the more dangerous it is to their health.
Especially for those who struggle with alcohol addiction, experiencing sleep apnea after drinking alcohol is not uncommon. Unfortunately, these repeated lapses in breathing prevent the brain and body from receiving the oxygen they need to function properly. These smaller disturbances can make carrying out daily responsibilities difficult. It also increases the persons risk of developing other related health conditions. Many people who become accustomed to binge drinking also have to learn how to deal with insomnia after quitting alcohol. This is especially important if theyve been struggling with sleep apnea after drinking.
Alcohol Increases Your Risk Of Heart Attack
Sleep apnea increases the risk of heart attack by 140%. As alcohol consumption increases the chances of sleep disordered breathing, it follows that alcohol and sleep apnea are related contributors to an increase in heart attack.
Another common factor in cardiovascular disease is obesity one of the main risks for developing sleep apnea.
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Dont Drink Before Bedtime
Drinking in the evening has proven to be the least harmful time to drink alcohol. By drinking in the evening, youre giving some time to your body to process the alcohol as well as to get rid of it and all the accompanying toxins, before bedtime.
This way you can increase your chances of falling and staying asleep, as well as avoid frequent waking up throughout the night. If evening drinks are not possible for you, then try getting up to two drinks at least 90 minutes before bedtime.
Moreover, make sure to drink enough water during, and get a good meal before you start drinking.
The Dangers Of Uncontrolled Sleep Apnea
Youve probably heard that regular exercise and a heart-healthy diet arethe most important things you can do for your cardiovascular health. As itturns out, though, the quality of sleep you receive is also critical toyour hearts wellbeing.
In particular, undiagnosed sleep apnea is directly tied to an increased risk in cardiovascular and metabolic health. The scariest part? You might not even know you have this very common problem.
Sleep apnea happens when upper airway muscles relax during sleep and pinch off the airway, which prevents you from getting enough air. Your breathing may pause for 10 seconds or more at a time, until your reflexes kick in and you start breathing again, explains Jonathan Jun, M.D. , a pulmonary and sleep medicine specialist at the Johns Hopkins Sleep Disorders Center.
Sleep apnea occurs in about 3 percent of normal weight individuals but affects over 20 percent of obese people, Jun says. In general, sleep apnea affects men more than women. However, sleep apnea rates increase sharply in women after menopause. Sleep apnea is often linked to heart disease and metabolic issues like diabetes.
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What Time Of Day Is Best To Have Alcohol
The Sleep Doctor, Michael Breus, M.D., recommends only 2-3 alcoholic drinks per week, and not before bedtime. One cocktail after work, a beer in the afternoon, or a glass of wine with dinner will metabolize enough ahead of time not to interrupt, or to minimally interrupt, your sleep. For more recommendations on alcohol consumption, symptoms, and signs of alcoholism, visit our alcohol addiction resource.
Alcohol Increases The Risk Of Sudden Death
Sleep apnea alone raises your risk of sudden death from cardiac arrest. Adding alcohol worsens symptoms and increases that risk. This is related to oxygen saturation levels in the blood. Once they fall below 78 , the risk of cardiac death is imminent.
Not to put too fine a point on it: alcohol and sleep apnea can be a fatal combination.
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Alcohol Before Bedtime Causes Bladder Issues
Alcohol is a diuretic and is known to contribute to frequent nighttime visits to the restroom. If you consume alcohol before bedtime, you are at risk of incontinence, bladder leaks as well as possible bedwetting problems.
Because it promotes urine production, alcohol causes you to keep waking up from your sleep to go to the restroom, causing not only disrupted sleep but also an inability to fall asleep again.
So, heres how alcohol disrupts sleep by irritating the bladder.
First of all, alcohol causes overreactive bladder symptoms, like frequent urination , sudden and strong need to urinate and incredible awareness and urgency to urinate throughout the night.
Obviously, your body cannot focus on sleep with all these urinating urgency symptoms.
Can Alcohol Cause Sleep Apnea
Alcohol abuse can increase the risk of developing sleep apnea because it hinders your ability to breathe while youre sleeping. Developing sleep apnea after drinking alcohol is possible because alcohol has a sedative effect on the body, relaxing all of the muscles, including the ones in the throat. When this form of muscle relaxation is continuously produced, it can cause your airways to collapse. As a result, a person will be more likely to develop sleep apnea and suffer its symptoms.
At our rehab facility in Boca, we understand the dangers of alcoholism, and how alcohol induced sleep apnea can negatively change a persons life.
If you or a loved one are battling with drug or alcohol abuse, do not wait to get help. Call us now at to get started on your recovery journey.
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Make Sure To Eat While Drinking
Even though this might not be ideal weight-wise, drinking and eating have shown to reduce the negative effects of alcohol significantly. Even then, you should not be doing this before bedtime.
If you plan to eat while drinking, make sure to do it at least 90 minutes before bedtime. This way you will not only avoid sleeping problems but also problems like acid reflux or GERD.
Thought Diary And Coping Strategies
When dealing with stress, many people, such as myself have a tendency to internalize their feelings! They hide their anger and frustration until they begin to suffer the consequences. Using a thought diary, you can easily express your feelings and reduce the risk of such problems hitting you later on.
Seeing your thoughts transported onto the screen, you will be able to detach from them and think with clarity. This can help improve your sleep duration and quality. You might also notice that you are more stressed when feeling pressured, or that you have trouble accepting negative emotions. Based on your entries, a monthly report will be created and you can share that with your therapist, making genuine breakthroughs.
These reports can be more useful than you might think. When you go to therapy, you get to spend one hour, or perhaps two, with the therapist. During that time, you will have to relate how you have been feeling over the past few weeks. It can be difficult to remember every useful piece of information, so referring to your CareClinic health app can help you a lot with this.
You can also use the app to record potential coping strategies and stress-relieving solutions. When needed, you can review these and opt for the one that suits you the best in that specific moment. You can record breathing and relaxation exercises, as these will help you overcome the fight-or-flight response which occurs in stressful situations.
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Ways Sleep Can Rapidly Improve Brain Function
How alcohol affects sleep
Before we look at the effects of alcohol on sleep in detail, heres the basic bottom line. The more you drink, and the closer your drinking is to bedtime, the more it will negatively impact your sleep. Even moderate amounts of alcohol in your system at bedtime alters sleep architecturethe natural flow of sleep through different stages. It also leads to lighter, more restless sleep as the night wears on, diminished sleep quality, and next-day fatigue.
What does drinking alcohol do to a night of sleep?
Its true, sleep may happen more quickly after consuming a drink or two. Alcohol often does reduce sleep onset latencythe time it takes to fall asleep. Depending on how much alcohol is consumed, however, what seems like falling asleep may be something closer to passing out. And we quickly build a tolerance for the sedative effects of alcohol, which means you may need to drink more to have the same initial sleep-inducing effects.
For many people who drink moderately, falling asleep more quickly may seem like an advantage of a nightly glass of wine. But alcohol goes on to affect the entire night of sleep to come.
People who go to bed with alcohol in their system may be more likely to wake early in the morning and not be able to fall back to sleep, another consequence of the rebound effect.
Other sleep disruptions associated with alcohol consumption include:
How much alcohol is too much for sleep?
Alcohol And Sleep In Those With Alcoholism
Many people who have insomnia will take a drink before bedtime to help them fall asleep. According to a National Sleep Foundation survey:
In the general population, 30% of people with persistent insomnia have reported that alcohol helps them sleep in the past year. And 67% of those demonstrated that alcohol was useful in inducing sleep.
This is because, after an initial stimulating effect, alcohols sedating effects can reduce the time required to fall asleep. But alcohols effects do not end there.
Research shows that alcohol consumed within an hour of bedtime will disrupt sleep in the second half of the sleep period. It causes the person to sleep fitfullyawakening from dreams and not being able to get back to sleep easily.
Over time, the drink before bedtime works even less effectively. With continued consumption, studies found, alcohols sleep-inducing effects decrease, while its sleep disturbance effects increase.
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Alcohol Worsens Sleep Apnea Events
Drinking alcohol can also make your sleep apnea worse. Alcohol is a depressant that can make your muscles relax. In the case of your airways, they can relax too much and collapse during sleep. Therefore, if you have OSA, alcohol may increase your risk for apnea events.
Several studies have found that alcohol consumption can make OSA worse. Alcohol may increase the number of times you stop breathing during the night. Essentially, this means your SA is more severe when you drink alcohol. Someone might have mild SA on a normal night, but moderate or even severe SA when they drink based on the number of apnea events they have.
Also, alcohol weakens your bodys response to apnea events. Alcohol makes your breathing slower and shallower. It also makes your arousal response longer. Now, were not talking about anything sexy, arousal response actually refers to your bodys natural instinct to wake you up when you stop breathing at night. After a few alcoholic drinks, this could take a lot longer, which means you might stop breathing for longer periods of time.
Therefore, alcohol can make SA worse. Its important to talk to our provider about your specific situation and strategies to manage SA and alcohol.
Herbal Teas For Sleep:
Herbal teas come from all plants other than the tea plant, and have widely variable effects on sleep. Some herbal teas can enhance sleep while others can disrupt it. Most herbal teas are caffeine free and are thus a better choice for drinking before bedtime and late in the day.
Valerian and kava have been shown to help treat sleep disorders, and there is some preliminary research that chamomile, hops, lavender, passionflower, and lemon balm may also be useful. However, kava and valerian are powerful drugs that should be used only under the consultation of a medical professional, not used casually as a beverage. Chamomile and lemon balm, however, are generally recognized as safe for beverage use.
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Sleep Apnea Stress Monitoring
With the help of the stress log, you will be able to see how stress has affected your life over a specific period of time. The CareClinic app can also be used to set goals, such as those for stress relief, allowing you to concentrate on the specific measures that can be taken to reduce your stress.
You should not put too much pressure on yourself and start small. Add a goal for each day and reward yourself for succeeding. The end goal should not be exclusively about stress relief. You should strive to become happier and fulfilled from an emotional point of view.
Many people are stressed because of their jobs, either because they have an increased workload or tight deadlines, or as a result of poor time management, inadequate work conditions or being discriminated. Failed personal relationships, chronic conditions and the lack of satisfaction can also lead to stress .
With the help of CareClinic, you will see which major life events have affected you the most. For instance, there are a lot of people who developed a stress disorder after having lost their partner, experienced financial difficulties or had to take care of a sick family member. Fear and uncertainty often make stress worse, as well as a negative attitude on life .