We’ve all been there – a night that started out fun became exceedingly more fun the more we drank. So we kept drinking, and kept having fun until the fun ended and we realised that we needed to get some rest or the next day would be a complete right off. But we also knew that alcohol makes a good night’s rest difficult, so in a groggy, tipsy state we desperately wonder how to sleep better after drinking alcohol.
Hang on -- doesn’t alcohol make you sleepy? Shouldn’t that be good when trying to get some sleep?
“I sleep better with alcohol!”
According to a review of 27 studies, alcohol does not improve sleep quality. The findings state that alcohol does allow healthy people to fall asleep quicker and sleep more deeply for a while, but it reduces REM sleep, and the more you imbibe, the greater the impact. REM (rapid eye movement) is very important because it’s the part of sleep where we dream and it’s believed to be when the body makes repairs, files and sorts out the stuff that needs sorting so we feel well restated the next day.
If our REM gets disrupted, we could feel drowsy, have a hard time concentrating, and feel generally crappy. There are even some studies that suggest our IQ gets lower when we are sleep deprived. Irshaad Ebrahim, the medical director at The London Sleep Centre suggests that alcohol also suppresses breathing and can precipitate sleep apnea.
The good news is that according to Ebrahim, one or two drinks shouldn’t cause much of a problem, but above that – you may feel it the next morning. But what you can take away in general is that we sleep better without alcohol.
Is There Anything We Can Do?
For starters, it makes sense to do the stuff we should always be doing, even if we haven’t been drinking. These are good tips for how to sleep better.
- Go to bed and wake up at consistent times.
- Avoid alcohol (or at least any MORE alcohol), caffeine and nicotine a few hours before you hit your sheets.
- Use your bed for sleeping; not emailing, gaming or binge watching TV series.
- Exercise regularly, but don’t do it too close to your bedtime.
- Keep your bedroom cool (temperature; not groovy posters, but that’s probably fine too).
And there’s even some nifty stuff out there that uses advanced research to improve our sleep and the waking-up experience.
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Is There Anything We Can Do Now That We’re Drunk?
Yes, no and maybe.
- Stop drinking and try to be as sober as you can before going to bed. Remember, the goal is to not disrupt your REM, which generally occurs 90 minutes into your sleep. So It’s entirely possible to get better sleep by staying up later and giving your REM less alcohol to deal with.
- Hydrate, hydrate and hydrate. Water is obviously a great option but there are other options that might even work better.
- PEDIALYTE -- it helps prevent dehydration and replace nutrients and electrolytes lost through vomiting and diarrhea in children. Look for it in the drugstore.
- Sports drinks – if you didn’t quite make it to the drugstore in time to get your pedialyte (it’s happened to all of us, right?), many sports drinks can at least help replace some electrolytes.
- Down some vitamins. B6 is good and there are bartenders who swear by those high, vitamin-C supplement drink powders many people take when they’re dealing with a cold.
- Exercise – this falls into the ‘maybe’ category. There is some evidence that vigorous exercise may help the body metabolize alcohol, but your mileage may vary a lot on this one. Oh, and sex can count as exercise.
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As for ‘no’, don’t do the following.
- Don’t take Tylenol. Many think a couple of Tylenols will knock them into sleepy-ville pretty quick, but the acetaminophen in Tylenol can actually slow down the process of metabolizing alcohol in your body. It’s also really hard on your liver and you just spent the whole night being really hard on your liver with alcohol.
- Don’t drink more. We’ve already gone over this – let’s not have an intervention.
So, reclaim the “morning after”, thumb your nose at your hangover and have a productive next day. Or at least be well enough rested to hit the bars again with your friends the next evening.