Think twice about drinking alcohol before bed
If you’re relying on that nice glass of Merlot to help you fall asleep, you may want to reconsider, according to one study.
Research leaders at the University of Missouri School of Medicine report that nearly 20 percent of Americans use alcohol to help doze off. But they also warn that drinking alcohol before bedtime interrupts the body’s normal sleep cycle.
Though the drowsing effects of alcohol would seem like the perfect sleep aid, study results found the opposite to be true.
“Based on our results, it’s clear that alcohol should not be used as a sleep aid,” said study author Dr. Pradeep Sahota in a news release. “Alcohol disrupts sleep, and the quality of sleep is diminished. Additionally, alcohol is a diuretic, which increases your need to go the bathroom and causes you to wake up earlier in the morning.”
Experts say that “sleep homeostasis” is what keeps the body regulated in terms of needed sleep. Alcohol can wreak havoc on that mechanism. The research showed that drinking puts a person to sleep at times too early or too late, which interrupts normal patterns.
Rather than promoting a sound sleep, alcohol can actually cause insomnia.
“During acute alcohol withdrawal, subjects displayed a significant increase in wakefulness with a reduction in rapid eye movement and non-rapid eye movement sleep,” the report said. “This caused insomnia-like symptoms and suggests an impaired sleep homeostasis.”
Physicians say that getting adequate sleep is an essential ingredient for good health, and we need to make it a priority.
“We live in a 24-hour society, but people need to be protective of their sleep,” says Dr. Pradip Sethi, a neurologist on staff at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Ill. “This is a difficult problem that’s not easy to solve, and people must realize the importance of adequate sleep.”
Researchers hope the findings are a wake-up call to those of us who drink before bed and a reminder to allow the body to regulate its own cycle naturally.
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