A glass of wine is a common nightcap for many, with some even believing that it helps to relax us in time for bed.
While it may be true that wine helps us fall asleep quicker, the alcohol in it disrupts our sleep by interfering with sleep homeostatis (the body’s internal timer) and leading to a poor night’s sleep.
Plus, regular drinkers could over time develop withdrawal symptoms and insomnia, the team from the University of Missouri School of Medicine found after their study that spanned more than five years.
“The prevailing thought was that alcohol promotes sleep by changing a person’s circadian rhythm – the body’s built-in 24-hour clock,” said study leader Dr Mahesh Thakkar.
“However, we discovered that alcohol actually promotes sleep by affecting a person’s sleep homeostasis – the brain’s built-in mechanism that regulates your sleepiness and wakefulness.”
If a person nods off early due to consuming a glass of wine, their sleep homeostasis changes and as a result, they may wake up in the middle of the night or earlier in the morning. This leads to disrupted sleep patterns.
Alcohol is also a diuretic, causing the body to expel water and leading to more bathroom visits than normal – not ideal when you’re sound asleep.
When the participants abstained from drinking alcohol, they presented symptoms of insomnia due to experiencing withdrawals.
“During acute alcohol withdrawal, subjects displayed a significant increase in wakefulness with a reduction in rapid eye movement and non-rapid eye movement sleep,” Dr Thakkar said.
Tips for a good night’s sleep:
- If you can, avoid caffeine and alcohol late in the evening. Try a hot, milky or herbal drink instead.
- Switch off from technology at least an hour before bed
- Make your bedroom conducive to sleep – Read our article on how to make your bedroom more sleep friendly
- Try some exercise to relieve the day’s stresses – Read our article on yoga for insomnia