How Alcohol Affects Sleep

Learn how alcohol affects sleep from sleep specialist Priyanka Yadav, D.O. in this Howcast video.

So another non-pharmacologic product used to help with insomnia is alcohol. Now, this is not recommended by doctors but it is commonly used to treat insomnia.

About 15 percent of people do use alcohol to help them sleep at night. Now, what they don’t realize is that it will help them fall asleep but once they’ve metabolized the alcohol, two to three hours after falling asleep, it will cause fragmentation of their sleep. In the second half of the night you have an increase in your REM periods, which is dream sleep, and if those are fragmented it may hamper your learning process and your memory consolidation, which is what occurs during that stage of sleep. Now, not only will it cause fragmentation of your sleep, but when you’ve been drinking close to bedtime you will have to wake up to use the bathroom often at night.

So there are two different ways that alcohol will fragment sleep and cause insomnia. It’s best to avoid alcohol starting two to three hours prior to your bedtime so you’ve finished metabolizing alcohol before going to bed.