Alcohol and Sleep

Last Updated: Sep 21st 2020

Reviewed by Brittany Polansky, MSW, LCSW

Alcohol and Sleep

There are many myths and misconceptions surrounding alcohol. One of the most pervasive is that drinking alcohol can assist you in getting a good night’s sleep. Actually, this isn’t true at all—and in fact, alcohol can do more harm than good in this regard, keeping you from getting the rest you truly need.

This may surprise you, and even run contrary to your personal experience. However, alcohol use before bed effects the quality of sleep—and drinking alcohol before sleep can actually reduce rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.

REM sleep is of critical importance. That’s where you sleep and dream the most deeply, and it’s widely believed to be the truly restorative part of your night’s rest. If you don’t get REM sleep, then your sleep cycle isn’t truly replenishing you or providing you with the energy you need to face the next day’s challenges. In short, a lack of REM sleep causes poor concentration, daytime drowsiness, and a range of other issues.

Yet alcohol disrupts it. Though drinking before bed can help induce sleep, it then proceeds to sabotage sleep—especially in the second half of the night. You may fall asleep promptly, then, but your rest will be rockier and less restorative than you need it to be.

Science has also confirmed that the more you drink before bedtime, the more profound this disruption really is. The bottom line: Alcohol does not work well as a sleep aid, and was never truly intended as such. Getting a good night’s sleep is far too important to risk on late-night cocktails—so make sure you hold off on that night cap, and instead look for healthier ways to fall asleep.

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Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Brittany Polansky, MSW, LCSW

Brittany has been working in behavioral health since 2012 and is the Assistant Clinical Director at our facility. She is an LCSW and holds a master’s degree in social work. She has great experience with chemical dependency and co-occurring mental health diagnoses as well as various therapeutic techniques. Brittany is passionate about treating all clients with dignity and respect, and providing a safe environment where clients can begin their healing journey in recovery.