Booze before bedtime disrupts restful sleep, scientists suggest

WATCH ABOVE: A new study suggests that drinking alcohol before bedtime disrupts your sleep.

TORONTO – Does a glass of red wine help you get to sleep? While it might seem like a good idea for a restful night, new research suggests that alcohol disrupts deep sleep.

Australian scientists warn that drinking might make you drowsy but once you get to bed, your slumber won’t be peaceful and you won’t be as alert the next morning.

“The take home message 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 sleep you get is significantly altered and disrupted,” lead researcher Dr. Christian Nicholas, of the University of Melbourne, said.

“If sleep is being disrupted regularly by pre-sleep alcohol consumption, particularly over long periods of time, this could have significant detrimental effects on daytime well-being and neurocognitive function such as learning and memory processes,” he explained.

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Nicholas and his team recruited 24 participants who were 18 to 21 years old to sleep in the university’s sleep lab. The group had to drink alcohol some nights – vodka and orange juice – and a placebo another night – just orange juice.

While they slept, the doctors monitored their brain activity using EEG (electroencephalogram) technology.

Turns out, when the college students liquored up, two things happened: patterns suggested that they weren’t getting deep sleep meanwhile frontal alpha power increased.

Alpha-delta activity is linked to “poor or unrefreshing sleep” in people with chronic pain conditions, the researchers note.

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The results don’t surprise Ryerson University professor Dr. Colleen Carney.

“We know that initially alcohol can decrease arousal and quicken the time it takes to fall asleep, however people quickly become too tolerant to the effect and need larger doses to achieve the same results over time,” she told Global News.

She suggested that this is why untreated insomnia increases risk of alcohol abuse. Carney notes that the findings have been replicated before: in previous studies, heightened alpha-delta brain patterns leave test subjects cranky and drowsy.

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“The net effect of alcohol is negative because resources are devoted to eliminating the alcohol from the system and once this process is complete, the disruption the elimination process caused, causes a rebound in lighter stages of sleep and sleep if overall lightened,” she explained.

Nicholas’ full findings will be published in the February issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

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