How Does Alcohol Affect Sleep?

Some people feel that having half a bottle of wine, a few beers, or one or two glasses of whiskey before bed is perfect for helping them get to sleep. The truth is, for many people, this can help for a while.

Alcohol is a depressant and it may get you to sleep easier. Unfortunately, alcohol also interferes with your quality of sleep, meaning that while you get to sleep easier, you actually wake up feeling more tired if you drink. One of the other main downsides is that you can become dependent on alcohol, meaning that you are not able to sleep without it.

How does alcohol affect sleep? This article explores that issue as well as the dangers of using alcohol for sleep, alternative methods of getting to sleep, and what to do if you have become dependent on alcohol.

Does Alcohol Affect Sleep?

As stated, alcohol is a depressant. This means that it slows down the central nervous system. When you drink before bed, you are essentially slowing down your whole body, including your brain. This can help you feel sleepy and relaxed, which can make it easier to fall asleep.

However, alcohol also disrupts the normal sleep cycle and causes sleep disorders. It prevents you from getting the good sleep quality that you need in order to feel rested when you wake up in the morning. You may find that you wake up frequently during the night or that you have trouble staying asleep until morning, particularly if you are binge drinking. As a result, you may not feel as well-rested as you would like when you wake up in the morning.

How Does Alcohol Affect REM Sleep?

REM sleep is a stage of sleep that is characterized by rapid eye movement. This stage of sleep is important for brain function and memory. Alcohol consumption can interfere with REM sleep, causing you to wake up feeling tired and unrefreshed. In addition, alcohol consumption can lead to dependence and addiction, which can make it even harder to get a good night’s sleep.

The first thing to do to increase your REM sleep is to not drink alcohol. Drinking even a small amount can decrease the amount of REM sleep you experience.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a condition that causes people to pause while they are breathing in their sleep. These pauses can last for seconds or minutes and can occur many times throughout the night. Sleep apnea can cause snoring, restless sleep, decreased sleep quality, and fatigue during the day. It is important to talk to your doctor if you think you may have sleep apnea. Treatment options are available that can help decrease occurrences of sleep apnea.

One option for treatment of sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, which uses a mask to deliver air pressure that keeps your airway open while you sleep, helping you to get deep sleep during the night. Another option is oral appliance therapy, which uses a mouthguard-like device to keep your airway open. Surgery is an option that can help people with sleep apnea achieve deep sleep.

Alcohol can cause sleep apnea. While the treatment methods above can be effective for treating this disorder, you can easily decrease sleep apnea and improve your sleep quality by reducing the amount that you drink, or quitting alcohol entirely.

The Long-term Effects of Using Alcohol for Sleep

One of the main dangers of using alcohol to help you sleep is that you can develop a dependence on it. This means that you cannot sleep without drinking alcohol. This can lead to problems such as insomnia, which can be very difficult to deal with.

If you are dependent on alcohol to sleep, you may find yourself drinking more and more in order to get the same effect. This can lead to alcoholism, which is a serious problem that can have a devastating impact on your life. If you think you may be dependent on alcohol to sleep, it is important to seek help from a doctor or an addiction specialist.

Alternatives to Using Alcohol for Sleep

If you are looking for ways to fall asleep without drinking alcohol, there are a few things you can try.

Take a Hot Bath

Having a hot bath can help you fall asleep quicker, and may improve your sleep quality as your muscles may be more relaxed while you sleep. You can try adding some lavender scents to your bath to help you fall asleep faster.

Herbal Tea

Another option is to try herbal tea or chamomile tea before bed. These can have a calming effect that may help you fall asleep and have a longer period of REM sleep.


Magnesium is a mineral that can be incredibly effective at reducing insomnia symptoms. It is available to buy at most health food stores as a capsule or a spray. You can also soak your feet or have a bath with Epsom salts, which contain magnesium.

Mindfulness Practice

A mindfulness practice like yoga or meditation can help you get a good night’s sleep by relaxing your mind and body. If you choose to use yoga to help you fall asleep, consider doing yin yoga, which is a gentle practice that is perfect to improve your sleep quality.

If you would like to meditate before you sleep, try experimenting with different types of meditation to find a meditation that can provide you with plenty of REM sleep.


Hitting the gym or going for a run before you head to bed is one of the best things you can do to solve your sleep problems. When your body is tired, your mind can relax easier. Exercise can help you to improve both sleep quality and sleep quantity.

If you are having trouble sleeping, it is important to talk to your doctor. They may be able to prescribe medication or suggest other treatment options.


Sometimes sleep disorders are caused by mental issues. If you have tried the above and are still struggling to sleep, it may be worth speaking with a psychotherapist. Within a few sessions, they should be able to spot if it is a mental issue that is causing you to have problems with your sleep.

How Much Alcohol Does it Take to Affect Sleep?

Drinking any alcohol can be enough to decrease your sleep quantity and sleep quality. If you are concerned about sleep apnea symptoms or are experiencing poor quality sleep, try reducing your alcohol consumption. If you still find it difficult to sleep, check out some of the tips above.

Addiction Treatment for Alcohol Abuse

If you have become dependent upon alcohol to sleep, you are on a slippery slope. Alcohol dependence destroys physical and mental health, and can ultimately kill.

If you want to ditch the booze and find effective ways of getting sleep without alcohol, contact Alina Lodge. Our holistic program of alcohol recovery will help you reduce the stress that stops you from sleeping, and provides you a springboard for long-term recovery.

CBT, EDMR, yoga therapy are just a few of the healing modalities that Alina Lodge uses to help our patients on the road to wellness.

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