If you enjoy a glass of your favorite Pinot Noir after a long workday, you’re not alone. A lot of people say that a nightcap helps them sleep—but sleep researchers would have to disagree. According to Dr. Carleara Weiss, Ph.D., MS, Rn, Aeroflow Sleep’s Sleep Science Advisor, and postdoctoral fellow in sleep and circadian rhythms, an evening glass of wine doesn’t pair as well with a good night’s sleep as it does with a medium-rare steak. In this article, we’re explaining why. Keep reading (as long as you promise not to get mad at us!).
Alcohol and Sleep
Sometimes we hate science. And if you love your evening red, this is one of those times. A 2018 study analyzed the sleep/alcohol habits of 4,098 adults between the ages of 18-65 and found that:
- Low alcohol intake reduced sleep quality by 9.3%
- Moderate alcohol intake (defined as two drinks per day for men and one for women!) reduced sleep quality by 24%
- Heavy alcohol intake reduced sleep quality by nearly 40%
Surprisingly enough, the study shows that alcohol affects younger people’s sleep more than older adults.
Older adults reading this, this is not your hall pass to keep your daily nightcap. Here’s the thing, alcohol is a sedative, so yes, it may help you get to sleep faster. But after that wears off, you’re likely to experience fragmented sleep, insomnia, or even more serious sleep issues like sleep apnea.
When there is alcohol in your system, chances are you will not hit delta waves in your sleep cycle. Delta waves are the slowest waves and deepest sleep of the night—it’s where the magic happens. In delta, your brain and organs can flush toxins from the body. Think of it as your nightly reset. You should be getting 2 hours in this phase, but most of us get way less.
Alcohol also makes us skip REM sleep, or rapid eye movement. This is when we are in dream sleep. Alcohol disrupts these normal patterns we are supposed to move through during the night and instead keeps us in super light sleep or wake stages throughout the night. In these stages, not much good happens.
Because alcohol’s sedative effects extend to your entire body, including muscles, it may cause your airway to close more easily while sleeping. This increases your risk for sleep apnea.
The Next Morning & Long Term Impacts
If you drink alcohol before bedtime (heck, even in the early afternoon), expect to wake up with some degree of grogginess and fatigue. Your body needs to compensate because you didn’t get enough sleep, and guess what, your alertness will struggle.
With chronic use of alcohol, you need to think about long-term risks. Research shows that alcohol decreases melatonin levels, the hormone that tells your body it’s time for sleep. When melatonin levels are out of whack due to reliance on alcohol for sleep at night, your whole body will be out of whack.
When we experience an imbalance of hormones, it impacts every bodily system. Let’s dive into a topic that is very near and dear to my heart.
Alcohol, Sleep, and Adrenal Fatigue (AF)
If you are using your favorite red to hit the hay, chances are you are struggling with your sleep cycle and circadian rhythms. Maybe you have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or both. Maybe you don’t get adequate amounts of sleep within the different stages as we mentioned.
Most people with adrenal fatigue struggle majorly with their sleep and circadian rhythm, and alcohol is not helping. Not only is poor quality sleep an underlying cause of AF, but it’s also an effect. Think of poor sleep as a vicious cycle that is causing a host of problems, including imbalanced hormones (sex, stress, etc), chronic fatigue, hair loss, brain fog, skin issues, and more.
If you want to stay sharp, have glowing skin, and feel good, it’s essential that you replace your nightcap with something booze-free.
Alternatives to Alcohol Before Bed For a Good Night’s Sleep
Aromatherapy is one of my favorite, natural ways to relax into a state of calm before bed. In a recent podcast episode, I talked about the best essential oils for better beauty sleep. I shared about my struggles with poor sleep and adrenal fatigue, and the specific oils I used.
I categorized them by reasons why you may have trouble falling to sleep:
Stress and worry: grounding oils like lavender and cedarwood, Siberian fir and bergamot, frankincense and Roman chamomile are some of my favorite blends
Tension, Ache, and Pain: Wintergreen, doTerra Deep Blue, and copaiba
Digestive Issues: Lemon, peppermint, and doTerra’s Digestzen
Congestion: respiratory oils like peppermint and doTerra’s breathe are my favorite
The top oils for falling asleep and staying asleep: lavender, vetiver, roman chamomile, marjoram, and cedarwood
Magnesium and Melatonin
Plant allies are incredible for helping you get to sleep. If you like the buzz of alcohol before bed, there are powerful consciousness-shifters that will help you fall asleep and stay asleep (and wake up without grogginess) sans alcohol.
Passionvine, Kava Kava, Motherwort, Lavender, Blue Valerian, and Reishi are all great options. Talk to an educated herbalist or naturopathic doctor before taking herbs for sleep.
There are a lot of no-booze booze brands popping up. Kin Euphorics is a great example of a brand that is doing good for people’s moods and sleep. They have two products that can support a healthy night’s sleep: Dream Light and Lightwave for inner calm. Both are packed with mind-calming ingredients and adaptogens to help you fall into a deep sleep (think L-Tryptophan, L-Theanine, and Reishi.
Putting on blue light glasses at least two hours before bed is essential for proper melatonin secretion. Good sheets, a weighted blanket can also be a favorite for those who struggle with comfort, tension, or anxiety.
I hope this article didn’t get you too upset about your evening vice. It’s important to prioritize sleep for optimal mental and physical health. Which alternatives are you considering? Let me know in the comments below.