Alcohol is a depressant that affects your brain and body in numerous ways: Most people who drink alcohol are familiar with the lowered inhibitions and poor coordination that comes along with a few drinks, not to mention the dreaded hangover.
If you use alcohol to help you fall asleep at night, you’re not alone. Approximately 20% of American adults use alcohol to help them fall asleep at night, likely because of its initial relaxing properties. But it may not be the best choice for a sleep aid. Our team at Chase Dental SleepCare, led by founder Barry Chase, DDS, explains why.
How does alcohol affect sleep?
Research suggests that while alcohol can induce sleepiness, it may have disruptive effects throughout the night. And over time, consumption of alcohol can actually disrupt your entire circadian rhythm, the internal clock that governs when your body sleeps and wakes.
In fact, scientists have discovered that the reason alcohol causes sleepiness is that it alters your body’s mechanism for cycling sleepiness and wakefulness. Consuming alcohol increases the level of adenosine in your body, a compound that makes you sleepy.
But after those initial effects, alcohol is detrimental to your sleep. Even moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to decrease sleep quality by up to 24%, with high alcohol intake impacting sleep quality by nearly 40%. As for why this detriment is so impactful, well, it seems that alcohol can actually change the structure of your sleep cycle at night.
As your body metabolizes alcohol, you go through what researchers call the rebound effect. The sedative effects of alcohol start to wear off, and your body moves from deep sleep to lighter sleep, often at the wrong time. You may not spend adequate time in a particular sleep stage, which can interfere with how rested you feel in the morning.
What to do instead of having a drink
If alcohol has been your go-to sleep aid for a while, it may be time to try something new, especially if you often feel ill-rested. To develop the best sleep treatment plan, we first need to uncover the cause of your poor sleep. Treatments differ based upon that.
Some common sleep problems that we at Chase Dental SleepCare treat include:
- Sleep apnea
- Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ)
- Obstructed airways
To treat these conditions, we may prescribe a CPAP machine, nightguard or other oral appliance, or even surgery, if necessary.
You may also experience sleep deprivation from lifestyle factors, such as high stress levels or a demanding job. If this is the case, we may talk with you about tactics to manage the cause of your sleep deprivation, or refer you to another health professional who can help.
Some lifestyle interventions for better sleep include:
- Exercising daily
- Avoiding heavy meals at night
- Engaging in stress-relief practices (such as meditating or getting out into nature)
- Journaling before bed
You may also have luck with replacing your usual alcoholic beverage with something else that induces sleep, but in a healthier manner. For example, certain herbal teas can calm your body and prime you for sleep, while a warm beverage with melatonin may help your body establish a better circadian rhythm.
To learn more about sleep aids that aren’t alcohol, schedule a consultation with our Chase Dental SleepCare team today. Call one of our New York locations or book online.