Are you struggling with alcohol addiction and sleep? If you do not get enough sleep, your quality of life is likely to reduce. Additionally, your relationships, mood, brain function, safety, and health will be affected. Sleeping is necessary because it helps the body rest and recharges the mind and body. Alcohol consumption affects the quality and length of sleep.
When it comes to sleep quality, you need to understand that a person experiences two stages of sleep. Slow-wave sleep or non -rapid eye movement (non-REM) and rapid eye movement (REM). When a person is experiencing non-REM sleep, they have reduced brain activity, and the sleep is lighter. This is the first stage of sleep before a person experiences deeper sleep. During this stage, the body experiences the following:
- Removal of toxins from the body;
- Renewal of bones; and
- Repairing of skin.
The second stage happens after every ninety minutes for about five to thirty minutes. Alcohol affects the central nervous system, and this directly affects sleep in numerous ways. Some people believe that alcohol promotes sleep. Alcohol is indeed a sedative. It helps people fall asleep faster; however, it still does a lot of damage to the person’s sleep cycle with alcohol use disorder. For example, the person may have an irregular sleep cycle, sleep disorders, and health issues.
Alcohol reduces the time needed for sleep, increases non-REM sleep, and reduces REM sleep. A complete sleeping cycle is as shown below:
This is the first stage of sleep. Individuals with alcohol use problems have an increased amount of deep sleep. This does not depend on the amount of alcohol consumed. The impact of alcohol on non-REM sleep depends on the amount of alcohol consumed. Large alcohol amounts significantly increase non-REM sleep. Therefore, individuals with alcohol use problems tend to have prolonged deep sleep and not be affected by the noise or disruption in the surrounding environment.
This is the second stage, and the consumed alcohol reduces the REM stage amount. This stage is significant to the body because it restores the mental state. Relying on alcohol for sleep leads to sleep talking, sleepwalking, and memory loss issues.
- Stage 1: A person transitions from being awake to sleep. The body starts shutting down. You will note that the muscles relax, eye movement slows down, breathing slows down, and the heartbeat slows down. It is also known as the light sleep stage.
- Stage 2: The breathing and heart rate keep reducing, and the person progresses to deep sleep. The eyes close and become still, and the body temperature reduces. This takes about four hours and is the longest part of sleep.
- Stage 3: The person’s brain activity, breathing rates, and heartbeat get to their lowest levels. The muscles relax completely.
- REM stage begins after ninety minutes of consistent sleep; the eye movements will start, and the heart and breathing rate will increase. This is when dreaming takes place.
Effects Of Alcohol on Sleep
- Rebound effect – A study on sleep and wakefulness shows the effect that alcohol has on healthy non-drinkers. The research highlights that when alcohol is consumed right before a person falls asleep, they experience a reduction in body temperature, which spirals back to increased body temperature. This is known as the rebound effect. When the alcohol leaves the body, the body rebounds drastically in the opposite direction.
- Hormone function – The pituitary gland is responsible for releasing hormones, and some of these hormones are linked to sleep. The release of some hormones peaks during sleep. Therefore, if sleep is delayed, secretory peaks are delayed, such as the growth hormone and prolactin. The prolactin hormones are essential for nursing women because it regulates growth and development of mammary glands. Additionally, it helps maintain milk production. This hormone is secreted four to five hours after a person sleeps.
- Insomnia – This is when a person has trouble initiating sleep and managing the time that they sleep. It leads to exhaustion, daytime drowsiness, and other health issues. Alcohol consumption affects the brain neurotransmitters that are responsible for the wake and sleep state. Therefore, the sleep pattern is disrupted, leading to self-medication and overconsumption of stimulants to stay awake during the day.
- Sleep apnea – A person who has this disorder experiences abnormal breathing patterns and loses breath during sleep periods. This reduces the quality of sleep and can cause sleep disruption. There are two types of sleep apnea, namely central sleep apnea and obstructive sleep apnea. Central SA happens when the brain loses its signal connection to the muscles that are responsible for breathing. Obstructive SA happens when a person has blockages at the back of their throat, preventing them from breathing normally. This causes choking or strained breathing and snoring. Alcohol affects the signaling ability of the brain and increases the probability of a person snoring when they sleep and even choking.
An observational study conducted in 2018 evaluates the sleep quality of individuals with alcohol use problems who have consumed varying amounts of alcohol. The study showed the following:
- The people who consumed a higher amount of alcohol reduced the quality of their sleep by 39.2 %
- The people who consumed a moderate amount of alcohol reduced their sleep quality by 24%
- The people who consumed a lower amount of alcohol reduced the quality of their sleep by 9.3%.
The qualities served varied depending on the gender of the person. This is because it has been observed that women get intoxicated faster in comparison to men. Furthermore, they show signs of intoxication faster and with lower dosages of alcohol in comparison to men. The water content in a woman’s body is less in comparison to men. Therefore, when a woman ingests alcohol, it circulates through the body and becomes more concentrated than their male counterparts.
If you depend on alcohol to fall asleep, it might work for the first few days, then afterward, you will experience the harmful effects of this. It will reflect your personal life, health, mental health, relationships, behavior, and work.