What happens when you drink alcohol before you go to sleep?
Let’s see precisely how alcohol consumption affects our dreams. Join us on our journey through the dreams after a night of drinking.
Did you get up tired? It’s quite possible that last night’s outing was the culprit. According to British scholars, alcohol consumption before bedtime affects the quality of sleep. In fact, more than 150 studies on the relationship between alcohol and sleep have released conclusive data: after a night of alcohol excesses (4 beers or more), your sleep cycle is interrupted, you spend more time awake at night, sleep less and your heart rate rises.
When you do not drink alcohol, the sleep cycle alternates between moments of deep sleep, and what is known as REM (Rapid Eye Movement) dreams, whose main function is to?defragment? the brain – practically as if it were a hard drive – preparing it for the day ahead. When you drink, on the other hand, you can’t achieve the precise REM sleep you need for rest, which translates into fatigue and a dazed feeling in the morning.
But that is not all. Alcohol also depresses the nervous system, so that although it is possible to fall asleep faster and sleep deeply throughout the first part of the night, the body accelerates throughout the second half. This is due to the fact that the sympathetic restless system – the one that keeps us alarmed throughout the day – is still active, so that as soon as the effects of the alcohol that induces sleep disappear and your restless sympathetic system is still active, it takes care of waking you up.
- 1 Want to know more? Dream Journey After a Night of Drinking
Want to know more? Dream Journey After a Night of Drinking
1.am.: After a long night of drunkenness, you faint in bed.
What’s going on? According to neuropsychiatrist Irshaad Ebrahim, a sleep specialist and research leader at the Sleep Centre in London, drinking depresses your brain, causing you to fall asleep four to one minutes earlier than normal and go into a deep sleep about eight minutes earlier as well. The downside of all this is that your heart rate rises to nine minutes per beat, which means that some parts of your restless system are still more active than they should be.
2 a.m.: You still have your shoes on.
What’s going on? Alcohol keeps you sedated, so your sleep continues uninterrupted, Ebrahim says. But the reality is that you don’t dream, and your heart rate has now risen to one beat per minute. That means too much activity.
3 a.m.: You sleep like a baby.
What’s going on? According to Dr. Sonu Ahluwalia, clinical chief of orthopedic surgery at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in the city of Los Angeles, alcohol delays the onset of REM sleep, rehearsing up to nine percent less REM sleep than necessary for convenient rest. The result is simple: a feeling of stupefaction in the morning.
5 a.m.: You go on under the covers.
What’s going on? According to Dr. Seiji Nishino, master of psychiatry at Stanford University, as alcohol metabolizes, your restless sympathetic system remains active as a result of drinking. As a result, you wake up one percent more often than you should during the second half of the night.
6 a.m.: Yes, you sleep, but you’re not resting.
What’s going on? By now, your body has metabolized most of the alcohol and you feel a bit startled without the sedative effects of drinking, says Ahluwalia. You toss and turn in bed and wake up as much as four.39 percent more than usual in the second half of the night. Your heart rate is rising now, to one heartbeat per minute.
8 a.m.: Finally… You’re awake!
What’s the matter: Alcohol is now fully metabolized and you want to go back to sleep, but your restless, sympathetic system is fighting for you to get up. Then the last thing that happens is that you get up early. And as a result of a night without enough REM dreams, you feel confused and exhausted. Guess who’s having a long day today…;
For tips on how to get a better night’s sleep, discover six things you should avoid before you go to bed