Alcohol is synonymous with relaxation – you enjoy a glass of wine with dinner or unwind with a cocktail or two after work. So it would seem natural to enjoy a nightcap before retiring after a long day. But imbibing before bed can negatively impact your sleep. While it may seem like a drink or two will send you on your way to dreamland, you’re not getting the restorative sleep you need to function at your best.
Alcohol is a sedative, which explains why it makes you drowsy, but according to sleep.org, those effects wear off during the second half of the night, and you’re more likely to become restless or wake up. So while you may think that alcohol is helping you sleep, it’s actually doing just the opposite. By the time you reach REM sleep – the deepest stage of sleep which is responsible for boosting memory, concentration and learning – the alcohol is causing you to become restless, preventing your body from recharging itself as well as it should. In addition, alcohol can cause vivid dreams or nightmares, according to Cleveland Clinic, which can also wake you from your slumber and interrupt the restorative effects of REM sleep. Women may struggle more with this issue than men because they metabolize the alcohol at a faster rate, Cleveland Clinic reported, so they reach the second stage of sleep faster than men.
This isn’t to say enjoying a cocktail or two at night will disrupt your sleep. Just don’t overdo it – two glasses, tops, is about the limit before the alcohol’s affects will disrupt the deep stage of sleep. If you’re looking for a relaxing drink before going to bed, try a cup of hot chamomile tea, which is known to ease anxiety and help those suffering from insomnia.