Different studies have shown that drinking alcohol indeed helps one fall asleep, but the alcohol then retards falling into the type of deep sleep that produces restoration and rejuvenation.
When many of the studies of alcohol and sleep are examined together, however, the results show that alcohol does indeed induce deep sleep — but for only one-half of the night. The other half is prone to wakefulness and impaired sleep that can result in poor daytime conditions.
Scientists reviewed 20 studies that included 517 participants who were tested in 38 sleep laboratory experiments to arrive at this conclusion.
“This review confirms that the immediate and short-term impact of alcohol is to reduce the time it takes to fall asleep,” lead author of the study Irshaad Ebrahim, director of the London Sleep Center, said in a statement. “In addition, the higher the dose, the greater the impact on increasing deep sleep.”
“The effect of consolidating sleep in the first half of the night is offset by having more disrupted sleep in the second half of the night,” Ebrahim said.
In other words, drinking alcohol to help one sleep is a mixed bag. While it induces sleep and produces level 3 and 4 sleep for the first half of the night, the effects during the last few hours of sleep are not productive; in fact, the second half of the night is counter-productive.
Now, here’s the important part if you enjoy drinking to help sleeping. One of two drinks won’t affect REM or deep sleeping, but more than that amount of alcohol does indeed retard the best type of sleep. So a nightcap can help, but beyond that, you may be sacrificing a good night’s rest.
The best approach to sleep, if you indeed are among 40 or so percent of Americans with sleep problems, is to seek professional help. The Snoring Center and other professional offices stand ready to help.