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Drinking alcohol may make your insomnia worse

Having a drink (or two, or three...) is often touted as a cure for insomnia yet most insomniacs know that sleep through intoxication isn't really helpful. Besides the health implications, those who drink to sleep report poor sleep quality and grogginess the next day.

A study published in a well regarded journal (see source link below) found that alcohol can actually increase wakefulness - in other words, drinking alcohol could actually make your insomnia worse.

The study looked at 93 healthy adults with an average age of 24. In the experiment, participants consumed alcohol to the level of intoxication (this varied according to gender and weight) or a placebo between the hours of 8.30pm and 10pm. Their sleep was then measured between the hours of 11pm and 7am.

Researchers found that consuming alcohol increased wakefulness and reduced sleep efficiency and rapid eye movement during sleep. Sleep quality scores were also lower in the morning amongst those who consumed alcohol compared to those who took the placebo. That being said, alcohol did (perhaps unsurprisingly) make participants feel sleepier at bedtime (particularly amongst women). Interestingly, researchers found that sleep duration, efficiency and nighttime awakenings were more disrupted in women who consumed alcohol compared to men.

In conclusion then, alcohol may make you feel sleepier but it disrupts your sleep - particularly if you're female. Perhaps it's time people stopped turning to the bottle in the hopes of getting a good night's rest, then?

Source: Wiley

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Last updated: January 19, 2012

This Article Was Written By

Martin Reed

Leave a Comment

  • Andrew
    January 25, 2012, 3:22 pm

    Anything makes me drowsy, but what’s use of becoming drowsy if the system (body? mind?) won’t shut down for a sleep at all? I mean I do not sleep at night at all, 100% insomnia and I feel very tired, very sleepy, but can;t fall asleep for the last couple months. Is this condition dangerous?

    P.S. Please note my doctor can;t help, all they did prescribe sleep aids.

    • Martin Reed
      January 26, 2012, 4:28 pm

      If you’re not happy with your doctor, often the best thing to do is seek a second opinion. Good luck.

  • A. Marina Fournier
    January 20, 2012, 5:39 am

    This is certainly true for me. A large meal is much more likely to send me to sleep after making me drowsy.

    Wine makes me drowsy, but liquor doesn’t so much. The only time I have had a good amount of spirits at bedtime was to shut down my cough reflex during a bad bout of cold or allergies, and it took eight bloody ounces of the stuff to stop the cough. You see, OTC cough medicine is too weak, and I’m allergic to codeine/vicodin, and apparently no one puts any other drug in prescribed cough medicine…