Alcohol and Sleep Apnea

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Posted on Wednesday, June 15th, 2022 at 4:05 pm    

Alcohol and Sleep Apnea

Many people like to have a drink before bed. They believe it relaxes them and helps them sleep. But does it? More recent studies have shown that the “relaxing glass of wine” may be doing more harm than good. Not only could it be making it harder to get a good night’s sleep, but it could also be making you so relaxed that you sleep too deeply.

Alcohol and Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone produced by your body that helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin production increases when it gets dark and decreases when it’s light. Drinking alcohol up to an hour before your regular bedtime can reduce your melatonin production by up to 19 percent. Lowered melatonin levels lead to restless sleep, which leads to fatigue and sleepiness the next day.

Alcohol and Relaxation

It is true that alcohol relaxes your muscles. That can be a good thing if you’re tense. It can be a bad thing if your body needs to wake up. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. This means that it tends to slow your breathing. If your breathing becomes too slow, as it might with sleep apnea, your body tries to wake you up to start breathing normally again. Under the effect of a depressant, like alcohol, you may be too relaxed to wake up quickly.

This cyclical effect leads to prolonged apnea events, increasing the effect of sleep apnea and making you feel even more unrested the next day.

Alcohol and Sleep Apnea

There is a connection between alcohol and sleep apnea, although doctors are not sure what it is. It does not appear that drinking causes obstructive sleep apnea, but the effects of excessive alcohol use can create conditions that lead to sleep apnea.

Because alcohol relaxes the muscles, drinking too much before sleeping will relax the upper throat muscles, causing them to collapse backward into the airway. This is the primary cause of obstructive sleep apnea. The effect can be worsened by alcohol’s tendency to relax all muscles, making waking up more difficult.

Weight gain is associated with excessive drinking and with obstructive sleep apnea in a negative feedback loop: as you gain more weight, your sleep apnea will become worse, leading to daytime lethargy and increasing weight gain.

In general, if you have difficulty sleeping or believe you have sleep apnea, you should avoid drinking less than three hours before bedtime.

Treatment for Alcohol-Related Breathing Problems

If you believe you have sleep apnea related to late-night drinking, don’t despair. The first step is to see the experienced Silent Night Therapy sleep team for a complimentary review of your sleep habits and lifestyle. Relief from your poor sleep could be as simple as adjusting your nightly routine and losing a few pounds.

The next thing our team will do is determine whether you have sleep apnea, either through a home sleep study or by sending you to a sleep clinic for a night’s examination. Our doctors will determine the best course of treatment after a thorough review. Give us a call at 631-983-2463, and we’ll help you get on the road to a restful night’s sleep.