Alcohol might help you fall asleep, but even just a couple of drinks can affect the quality of your sleep. And if you're regularly drinking more than the UK Chief Medical Officers' (CMO) low risk drinking guidelines by consuming more than 14 units a week you may find you wake up the next day feeling like you haven't had any rest at all.
How alcohol affects your sleep patterns
Regular drinking can affect the quality of your sleep making you feel tired and sluggish. This is because drinking disrupts your sleep cycle1.
Several sleepless nights have an impact on our day-to-day mental health, for example, on our mood, concentration and decision-making.
Regularly drinking alcohol can disrupt sleep. For example, a heavy drinking session of more than six units in an evening, can make us spend more time in deep sleep and less time than usual in the important Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage of sleep, which is an important restorative stage of sleep our bodies need2. This can leave us feeling tired the next day - no matter how long we stay in bed.
But having alcohol-free days can help. You should be sleeping better and find it easier to wake up in the morning.
Drinking can equal a disturbed night’s sleep
When you drink more than usual, you may have to get up in the night to go to the toilet. And it's not just the liquid you've drunk that you'll be getting rid of. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it encourages the body to lose extra fluid through sweat too, making you dehydrated.
Drinking can also make you snore. It relaxes the muscles in your body, which means the tissue in your throat, mouth and nose can stop air flowing smoothly, and is more likely to vibrate.
Why you should avoid alcohol just before bedtime
If you are drinking alcohol, try to avoid it too close to bedtime. Give your body time to process the alcohol you've drunk before you try to sleep – on average it takes an hour to process one unit, but this can vary widely from person to person.