- While alcohol sometimes helps to induce sleep, drinking alcohol is actually one of the causes of sleep problems.
Finishing off a long day at work with a visit to the local pub is not uncommon for many Tanzanians. Alcohol is used as a relaxant after stressful working weeks, and is often used as a “sweetdream-cap” for particularly distressing days.
While alcohol sometimes helps to induce sleep, drinking alcohol is actually one of the causes of sleep problems.
Alcohol contains a substantial amount of ethanol causing unstable dynamic functions such as unclear speech, unstable movement, troubled perception and inability to react quickly, explains Dr Wema Ngowi, a medical doctor at Buguruni Health Centre.
“Alcohol messes with sleep rotations, resulting in more awakenings, and causing people to spend less time in the important deep sleep stages,” explains Dr Ngowi in an interview with Your Health. Due to this, people who consume alcohol would want to be extra careful with their drinking pattern.
According to Global Status Report on alcohol and health, in 2012, about 3.3 million deaths, or 5.9 per cent of all global deaths, were attributable to alcohol consumption.
Alcohol also results in extra breathing difficulties, it can increase the symptoms or effects of parasomnia, sleepwalking and restless legs syndrome.
“Most people drink for the stimulant effect, such as beer or glass of wine. But if a person consumes more than the body can handle, they then experience alcohol’s side effects. They start to feel “thoughtless” or lose coordination and control,” Dr Ngowi cautions.
Dr Ngowi said on top of this, alcohol suppresses the anti-diuretic hormone in your body, which can contribute to even more bathroom trips. And when you’re going to the bathroom regularly, you tend to lose the essential electrolytes.
All these factors can add up to the fact that when one is drunk, one becomes intolerant to light, frequently interrupted sleep and an exhausted, dehydrated you in the morning. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Cautioning the regular drinkers, Dr Ngowi advises consumption of two glasses of water right after a single alcohol drink (glass or a pint). This will help their system to flush out the alcohol.
Drink even more water if you’re having wine, beer or a sugary drink, since your body will need to flush out the alcohol and the sugar.
Excessive bubbles due to carbon dioxide in the drinks can cause gas and bloating of your stomach, providing more surface area for alcohol to be absorbed and mess with your sleep. Similarly, think twice about drinks with bubbly, carbonated mixers.
“Drink with food, and pay attention to your alcohol intake. Doing your drinking and eating at the same time is a good idea because you’re typically munching on meals a few hours before bed, which allows more time for your body to metabolise and more time for you to squeeze in those crucial glasses of water,” Dr Ngowi advises.
Eating will slow the hit of the alcohol, so you might actually end up drinking more to feel the buzz. Allow three to four hours between drinking and hitting the bed.
For example, if you plan to sleep by 10pm, be sure to finish that glass of wine or beer by 6pm or 7pm. It takes your body about three hours to metabolise 8 ounces of wine or beer, depending on your size, weight, gender and the type of alcohol you are consuming.