The effect of alcohol on sleep is dose-dependent. Occasionally drinking one or two glasses during meals in the evening may help to relax and make it easier to fall asleep. However, higher doses of alcohol disrupt the sleep pattern and depress the central nervous system. Alcohol dulls the muscles of the upper respiratory tract, causing snoring and increasing the risk of sleep apnea. If drinking becomes a regular habit, the brain's nerve cells become accustomed to the effects of alcohol, therefore requiring higher doses to experience the same relaxing effect. However, the repressive effect on CNS regulatory centers remains. This reduces the relaxing and sleepy effects of alcohol, while the side effects increase. Abundant alcohol consumption also increases the risk of cardiac arrhythmias.
There are numerous effects of high alcohol consumption on sleep, among which one of the most serious ones mimics rest, instead it is not a true sleep but a poisoning condition that at worst can cause a complete loss of consciousness (coma). It is a life-threatening condition especially if the person tends to sleep apnea.
Drinking alcohol reduces REM phase. As blood alcohol levels fall after 3-5 hours of sleep, REM phase levels suddenly increase and this leads to nightmares, sweating and restlessness.
Alcohol abuse is also a common cause of insomnia. The alcohol taken during the day causes anxiety in the evening, a symptom of withdrawal, with insomnia. This is a similar spiral of people trapped in sleeping pills. Abundant and prolonged use of alcohol can also cause damage to brain sleep control centers. At worst, it can take several months or even years to fully repair these lesions.
Alcohol-induced intoxication never leads to high-quality sleep. Either the person will not sleep at all, or will be very restless due to delusions.
What to do if you don't fall asleep?
- Do not use alcohol as a sleeping pill. It produces no help and only exacerbates the insomnia cycle.
- Practice a variety of relaxation techniques to find the one that suits you best. Progressive muscle relaxation is often recommended to situations where insomnia is accompanied by anxiety. Relaxation is a skill that improves with regular exercise and has the same benefits as a good dream.
- Deep breathing, or balloon breathing, is an effective way to calm the body. It activates the parasympathetic nervous system and promotes relaxation, which helps you to fall asleep. Instead, trying too hard to sleep will increase activity and prevent/delay sleep.
- Avoid being awake in bed. If sleep does not come in your bed, go willingly after half an hour of trying on the couch or elsewhere to relax and rest. In your bed you can quickly develop the wrong kind of habits that maintains insomnia.
- Take some sleep ritual instead: reading, listening to music, a warm bath, etc. Something that your body gradually begins to combine with calming down and falling asleep. -If you wake up at night and do not immediately sleep, it may take a few hours for you to fall asleep again. Therefore, never look at the clock, but move out of bed if you estimate that you have been waiting for half an hour to fall asleep again.
- Short naps are recommended, but do not sleep more than a hour during the day.
- Use drugs only temporarily. Taking regular sleeping pills (such as benzodiazepines) to relieve sleep can actually cause insomnia, difficulty falling asleep, and sleepiness at night, in the long run.