Drinking alcohol causes disruption of sleep, which later result in sleep disorders. Alcohol can interrupt the rhythms and durations of sleep, affect the required time to become sleepy and alter a full period for rest.
Currently, scientists have not fully understood all the complicated functions that occur in people while they are asleep. However, they have linked sleeplessness with serious health problems and disorders such as depression, heart diseases, stress, among others.
What is a Normal Sleep Pattern and How Does the Brain Control Sleep
A normal sleep falls into two categories that cause the brain waves to display different types of activities. These include rapid eye movement sleep (REM) that occurs during dreams and slow-wave sleep (SWS) that involves deep sleep.
Research indicates that sleep occurs due to an activity of the lower stem of the brain regulated by nerve centers. These nerve centers produce certain chemicals such as serotonin and norepinephrine. Some of the functions of these chemicals are to control slow-wave sleep, REM sleep and to promote arousal.
Although there isn’t enough information on how brain chemicals network to control sleep, scientists have proved that alcohol consumption changes the functions of these chemicals, leading to altered sleep patterns.
The Mistake People Believe about Sleep when Drinking Alcohol
Many people with sleep disorders mistakenly believe that drinking alcohol before retiring to bed will make them sleepy. Little do they know that the sedating effects of alcohol can decrease the time needed to fall asleep.
Even worse, research indicates that alcohol consumption one hour before bedtime will interrupt sleep in the second phase of the sleep period. This action causes an alcohol addict to experience restless sleep, awake more frequently during dreams and have difficulties falling asleep.
Eventually, drinking alcohol before bedtime doesn’t produce the intended sleep results, but it increases the effects of sleep disruption while decreasing sleep-induction.
The Link Between Drinking Alcohol, Withdrawal, and Sleep
For people who have developed an alcohol addiction, sleep disruptions may also involve a more prolonged period of falling asleep. An alcoholic also experiences a decrease in quality sleep, frequent awakenings, and fatigue during the day.
It may appear reasonable to think that alcoholics who quit drinking would resume to standard sleeping patterns. However, give up drinking alcohol suddenly can result in severe withdrawal symptoms, which can produce evident insomnia and constant sleep disintegration.
Recovery, relapse, and Sleep
Once the withdrawal symptoms diminish, the sleep patterns among alcoholics usually improve. But for some alcoholics, especially long term users, regular sleep patterns may never resume, even after years of sobriety.
Studies have discovered that recovering alcoholics have poor sleep, increased insomnia and less slow-wave sleep, which leads to less relaxing sleep and daytime fatigue.
Ironically, if the recuperating alcoholics reverts to heavy drinking, their slow-wave sleep rhythm will increase, and their nighttime insomnia will decrease. This misguided impression that drinking alcohol improves sleep is the primary reason why many alcoholics relapse. However, they will only get temporary relief during this period.
As they continue drinking, they will again experience cycles of disrupted sleep patterns. To conclude, the opinion that alcohol consumption improves sleep is indeed a myth.