Sleep is well known to be very important for all round health and wellbeing. In fact, as humans, we simply can’t live without it. So, what happens when your drinking starts to interfere with your sleep?

Science shows us that together with balanced nutrition and proper exercise, sleep is a key component of good health. That’s because sleep is our body’s natural recovery mechanism, and without enough of it, things can get bad pretty quickly.

Alcohol can be the enemy of a good night’s sleep, and here’s three key reasons why:

  • Consumption of alcohol (and other things like coffee or energy drinks) can interfere with our normal sleep processes even after just 1-2 drinks. While drinking alcohol before bedtime may help some people fall asleep more quickly in the short term, it can affect the quality of your sleep over the course of the full night. It can also disrupt your sleep cycles and cause early morning waking
  • Late nights also impact our internal body clock – our sleep – wake – sleep cycle which is also known as the Circadian Rhythm. While it might be fine for you to have a nice sleep in and slow start to the day on a Sunday, most of us don’t have this luxury on other days of the week. Late nights are followed by head splitting alarm clock wake ups, which mean you feel much less rested than you normally would
  • Alcohol also has a diuretic effect, which tends to make you pass more urine. For this reason, you may have to get up during the night to go to the toilet, leading to a more disturbed night’s sleep.

The common theme in all of these is broken sleep patterns. If this is a regular occurrence, then over time the effects can be wide-reaching:

  • causes fatigue, lack of motivation, moodiness
  • affects your concentration and memory
  • reduces your creativity and ability to problem solve
  • lowers your ability to cope with stress
  • reduces your immunity
  • impairs your motor skills (e.g. co-ordination)
  • can act as a trigger for some mental health problems

Put simply, you may become less alert, productive and more prone to accidents.
So enough of the doom and gloom – how much sleep do we actually need and how can you get it?

Sleep is quite a contentious topic as we are all different but expert advice from the Sleep Foundation suggests that Adults (18+) should have 7-9 hours quality sleep a day and 7-8 hours for Seniors. The key word here is quality!

Some of you will be rolling your eyes or having a wee chuckle. These guidelines serve as a rule of thumb, and ultimately you will know how much sleep you need to be able to balance your health and other responsibilities in life but remember – sleep deprivation has been used as a form of torture over history and for very good reason. Everything is harder when you are tired, even something as simple as tying your shoelaces, so be kind to yourself and ensure you have a good sleep routine, regardless of the time your head hits the pillow.

5 Tips for a good night’s sleep:

Make Sleep A Priority

We all love to have a good time with our mates, but in the same way we prioritise time to eat, work, exercise and play, we do need to prioritise time for sleep. So if you know you have a big night on the calendar, try and get a few early nights beforehand or on weekends, make sure you don’t have any early morning engagements so you can catch up on some shut eye that you missed then. Alternatively, a nap could be your secret weapon ahead of a late one – the Spanish are great at this with their afternoon Siestas! Experiment with a late afternoon sleep, up to 30mins max. Like a quick battery top-up, this will give you an energy boost before you head out and makes for a slightly smaller sleep deficit the next day.

Eat Right

Eating well goes without saying for all round good health, but it is especially important for helping to absorb the alcohol in your body and achieve quality sleep. Experts suggest that you avoid caffeine at night (yes, this should include Red Bulls) and don’t eat big, heavy meals 2hrs before sleep (including Kabab’s and Macca’s on the way home). You are better off making good food choices and eating before and during your drinking occasion to help slow down the absorption of alcohol in your body and for the best results – don’t forget to drink plenty of water and start the next day with a protein-rich breakfast.

Expose yourself

Melatonin is a hormone in our bodies that helps to regulate our sleep cycles, and it’s controlled by exposure to sunlight. Your brain will release more melatonin when it is dark, which makes us sleepy, so partying the night away in brightly lit bars will play havoc with this natural cycle. To keep your sleep–wake–sleep cycle in check, try to expose yourself to daylight in the mornings, ensure you allow as much natural light into your home/workplace as possible, and get regular exercise to help improve the quality of your sleep over time. The only watch out is avoiding vigorous exercise 3hours before sleep – worth remembering if you are known for cutting mean shapes on the D Floor in the wee small hours of the morning!

Temple of Sleep

Regardless of when you hit the sack, your bedroom should recreate what’s happening outside at night: cool, dark and quiet. Remove all the piles of clothes and junk off your bed before you go out, so you have a zen space to return to.
Make sure you have dark curtains that block out the light, or try sleeping in an eye mask. Put your phone in a drawer when you go to bed and try not to lie on your bed watching Netflix or sending txt’s you will regret. This will only make it harder for you to fall asleep and stay that way.

Routine & Ritual

Cast your mind back to when you were a child and/or parent to young kids. You’ll remember the importance of having a bedtime routine to get youngsters to sleep. As adults, we are no different, so even after a night out, ensure you have a pre-sleep routine (albeit a simpler version of your normal routine). Maybe it’s taking a hot shower before jumping into bed, having a cup of caffeine-free tea or anything else that relaxes your mind.
Remember – quality sleep requires both your body and mind to be relaxed.

Take our quizzes to learn more about the effects of alcohol and how to drink safely.

Good luck with improving your beauty sleep – your mind and body will thank you for it the next day! As always, we would love to hear your top sleep tips and tricks so feel free to email us at alcoholandme@lionco.com.

The Alcohol&Me Team