Sleeping Poorly? Why Alcohol Could Be The Culprit

alcohol healthy habits sleep habits May 30, 2023


Earlier this year I did an experiment to see if alcohol was affecting my sleep.  I decided to remove alcohol from my diet for a few months and closely monitored my sleep patterns and readiness scores from my sleep tracker (I like the Oura ring). Typically I do not consume alcohol throughout the week but may enjoy a couple of glasses of wine or vodka sodas on the weekend. I used to think it was early morning hockey practices or the fact I worked all week that I would wake up tired on the weekend.  However, after a month without alcohol, I started to notice I was less tired on the weekends.  Could removing a few glasses of wine from my life really be that impactful?


In the last few years, sleep has been getting a lot more attention as have the things that impact the quality of sleep.  People often correlate a “nice glass of wine” (or your cocktail of choice) with relaxation.  While it’s true that alcohol can initially make you feel drowsy and fall asleep faster, your body has to work to break down the alcohol and that disrupts our sleep.  There are a few reasons for this as I will outline below. 


Firstly, alcohol consumption causes an increase in function of your liver, which in turn increases your heart rate and tells your body that it has to work, not rest.  This can lead to more awakenings in the night and less REM sleep.  The more disruptive your sleep, the less refreshed you will feel in the morning.  REM sleep is important because it helps us with memory and learning. So even if you’re not hungover, your mental prowess can still be affected due to the lack of REM sleep. 


Secondly, alcohol is a diuretic and can contribute to dehydration.  So while you are consuming, make sure you add 1 glass of water per alcoholic beverage and that will help combat dehydration. Also, make sure you drink a few glasses of water in the morning before any coffee to start the rehydration process.


In addition, alcohol can also interfere with the metabolism and absorption of certain B vitamins so it is important to replenish these with a high quality supplement.  Overall, (independent of alcohol consumption) I feel more energetic when I supplement with a vitamin B complex than when I do not.  If you consume alcohol regularly,  consider adding that to your regime and look for any positive changes.


My recommendation is to really watch for any habitual tendencies that you have with alcohol. (I wrote a previous blog post about the reduced recommendations for alcohol consumption which you can read about here). Is it every night you have a glass of wine?  Are you watching TV consistently with a beer in your hand?  Regular and consistent alcohol consumption will likely slow down your progress to your long term health goals.  A few drinks per week is unlikely to have a long lasting negative effect on your overall health, but poor sleep will!  So let’s look at all of the things we can do to increase the quality of our sleep and watch how the positive ripple effect spills over to different areas of your life.


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