Binge Science! Alcohol Affects Sleep Quality

alcohol affects sleep quality

New research uncovers that alcohol affects sleep quality

What’s better a Friday than a news item about alcohol! Researchers find that alcohol affects sleep quality. Though it might be easier to fall asleep the sleep is less restorative.

Alcohol, the favorite drug of people all around the world! Alcohol have been brewed and drunk by man since the last part of the stone age. During these thousands of years we have developed hundreds of alcoholic beverages with different tastes and alcohol strength. Many probably already know that you can get mightily drowsy from consuming large amounts of the mind altering drink. But did you know that despite acting like a sedative alcohol actually disrupts your sleep? This is the topic of research published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

Alcohol Affects Sleep Quality

People who drink before going to sleep experience two effects, first: Alcohol acts like a sedative making it hard to stay awake. This effect corresponds with an increase in delta frequency slow wave sleep (SWS) activity on an EEG, recording your brain waves. Changes in delta frequencies during sleep is not unique to drinking, this change is also seen during normal development in adolescence between 12 and 16 years of age. It’s also during these formative years that adolescents’ first contact with alcohol takes place.

[pullquote]”People likely tend to focus on the commonly reported sedative properties of alcohol, which is reflected in shorter times to fall asleep, particularly in adults, rather than the sleep disruption that occurs later in the night,” said Christian L. Nicholas author of the study. [/pullquote]

“The reduction in delta frequency EEG activity we see across the ages is thought to represent normal brain maturational processes as the adolescent brain continues to develop to full maturity,” said Nicholas. “Although the exact function of non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) sleep, and in particular SWS, is a topic of debate, it is thought to reflect sleep need and quality; thus any disruption to this may affect the underlying restorative properties of sleep and be detrimental to daytime functioning.”

In the study researchers recruited 24 participants 12 male, 12 female. All were healthy 18-21 year old social drinkers who hadn’t consumed more than 7 standard drinks per week in the previous 30 days. Everyone who participated served as their own control both drinking alcohol and placebo before sleeping while their brainwaves were recorded by an EEG during the night.

Researchers found that consuming alcohol during the day increased SWS delta power during non REM sleep. In addition alcohol caused an increase in frontal alpha power. This combination of changes in brain activity causes sleep disruption which was observed in the study.

Alcohol affects sleep quality, it isn’t a good sleep aid. Even though you might feel like you fall asleep faster, the sleep you’re getting will not be as restorative as normal sleep. If you want more on the science of sleep look no further than these articles:Sleep Disturbance Increase Amyloid Plaques , Brain Sleep Center found, Now you can Rest Easy and Take Out the Trash! Injury and Brain waste removal.

Image credit:  Indigo Skies Photograph via, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0