Posted on Monday, July 1st, 2024 at 4:16 pm    

Many enjoy unwinding with a glass of wine or a cocktail after a long day. But did you know this seemingly harmless habit could wreak havoc on your sleep?

Dr. Maher Karam-Hage from MD Anderson Cancer Center warns that alcohol acts as a deceiving sleep aid. While a nightcap might initially make you feel drowsy, it often leads to “rebound insomnia” later in the night. You may fall asleep quickly, only to find yourself wide awake and unable to drift off again.

This disruptive sleep pattern stems from alcohol’s effect on your body. As you metabolize the alcohol, it fragments your sleep cycles and reduces the amount of restorative REM (rapid eye movement) sleep you get. REM sleep is crucial in memory consolidation, emotional processing, and brain development.

Consistently skimping on quality sleep due to alcohol use can take a toll on your daytime functioning as well. You may experience:

  • Fatigue and sleepiness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Impaired judgment and decision-making
  • Moodiness and irritability
  • Weakened immunity

Other Negative Health Impacts

Poor sleep is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to alcohol’s negative health impacts. Victoria Lee, a senior clinical dietitian, explains that alcohol contains empty calories void of nutrients. Drinking extra calories can lead to weight gain, which further increases your risk for sleep apnea, a dangerous condition that causes repeated breathing lapses during sleep.

Additionally, research links alcohol consumption to numerous cancers, including oral, throat, colorectal, esophageal, liver, and breast cancer. The ethanol in alcoholic drinks breaks down into a DNA-damaging chemical called acetaldehyde. Over time, acetaldehyde can cause harmful mutations that allow cancer cells to develop and grow.

Carrie Daniel-MacDougall, Ph.D., a researcher who studies diet and cancer, adds that alcohol alters the balance of bacteria in your mouth and gut. This delicate microbiome helps your body break down and eliminate alcohol’s toxins. When you overindulge, you overwhelm this system, allowing the toxins to escape into your bloodstream and infiltrate various organs.

On top of increasing cancer risk, heavy drinking can result in high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver damage, and a weakened immune system. It also negatively impacts fertility in both men and women and can cause fetal alcohol syndrome if consumed during pregnancy.

Moderation is Key

If you value your sleep and overall health, it’s best to avoid alcohol entirely. But if you choose to imbibe, moderation is key. Dietary guidelines recommend limiting intake to one drink per day for women and two for men. Remember that a standard drink equals 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of liquor.

You can also explore delicious alcohol-free alternatives to your favorite beverages. Treat yourself to a bubbly kombucha, a virgin mojito, or a craft mocktail.

Contact Our Sleep Specialists

If you find yourself struggling to cut back on alcohol or suffering from persistent insomnia, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. The sleep specialists at Silent Night Therapy are here to guide you towards more restful nights and vibrant days. Contact us or call us today at 631-983-2463 to schedule a consultation and take the first step towards reclaiming your sleep.