Medical science shows that alcohol is a depressant. Yet did you know that it can actually disrupt sleep?
New findings published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical Experimental Research show that drinking, particularly at night, can actually prevent you from getting at good night’s rest.
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“The take home messages here is that alcohol is not actually a particularly good sleep aid even though it may seem like it helps you get to sleep quicker. In fact, the quality of the sleep you get is significantly altered and disrupted” said Dr. Christian L. Nicholas, from the National Health Medical Research Council, in a news release.
For the study, researchers had 24 young adults between the ages of 18 and 21 spend a few nights at the Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences Sleep Laboratory. While the participants were allowed to go to bed at their normal time, they were give a nightcap of orange juice and vodka one night and nothing another night.
When given alcohol, their sleeping brainwave patterns were measured via an electroencephalogram (EEG).
Findings revealed that on the nights they drank alcohol, many of the participants had difficulties sleeping. Furthermore, alpha wave patterns were also heightened–a thing that doesn’t typically occur during normal sleeping patterns.
While alpha activity tends to occur when the brain is awake or quietly resting during a metabolic break mode, delta and alpha activity together can lead to disrupted sleep, offsetting restorative efforts where brain neurons are working to squeeze in.
Researchers reaffirm that while people believe alcohol helps them fall asleep a bit quicker, it is actually causing their quality of sleep to be worse.
“When you see alpha activity alongside delta activity during sleep, it suggests there might be some kind of wakefulness influence that could compete with the restorative nature of delta sleep,” she added, via Time.
The study authors concluded that you don’t need to avoid alcohol altogether. However, you probably shouldn’t indulge in a nightcap all the time. It could affect your sleep patterns.