How Alcohol Affects Sleep

Many people make one of their resolutions at the New Year to drink less or cut out alcohol from their diet entirely. How can this help your sleep and overall health?

Alcohol is a sedative and is known to slow down brain functions, which can lead to feeling relaxed and sleepy. The problem is that the more alcohol you consume, the less restful your sleep is likely to be.

Even moderate alcohol consumption (two drinks for men, one drink for women) has been proven to decrease sleep quality by up to 24%. Excessive alcohol consumption (anything more than two drinks for men, one drink for women) can decrease sleep quality by up to nearly 40%!


The brain and body go through four stages of NREM and REM sleep at night. The first three stages are NREM, where the heart rate begins and continues to slow down, breathing slows to an even pace, and brain activity slows to its lowest rate by the third stage. The final stage, REM, is when the heart rate is faster, and when people most likely enter a dreaming stage. The brain goes through all four of these stages in cycles, so some people may experience all four stages multiple times in one night. Consuming alcohol has proven to disrupt REM sleep by either not allowing the brain to get to the REM cycle at all or by keeping the cycles much shorter.


Alcohol consumption, especially in larger amounts, can cause symptoms of sleep apnea to worsen. Many studies have shown that the risk of developing sleep apnea can increase up to 25% just due to regular alcohol consumption. 

Enjoying a drink occasionally can be fun and relatively harmless for most people, but keep in mind that regular moderate or excessive alcohol consumption can have short and long term effects on your brain, body, and sleep pattern!

Sources: Alcohol and Sleep

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