Alcohol is the #1 sleep aid people turn to in order to help them get to sleep. They may have had a stressful day at work, too much on their mind, or have a hard time sleeping without it. It is known that alcohol does make you drowsy and does help you fall asleep easier, but at a very high price.
How alcohol affects sleep
The reason alcohol works so well for helping you fall asleep is because it is a depressant. This helps to induce sleep. That is where the benefits stop because everything after that is working against you. Alcohol will suppress your REM cycle and lead to fragmented sleep. The REM cycle is mainly in the second half of the night and is involved with processing memories and storing memories. When you “blackout” from drinking too much, your brain doesn’t store any of those memories because REM is suppressed, hence why you can’t remember getting that tattoo on your forehead.
It is not uncommon to get a full night’s sleep after drinking alcohol, but how many times do you wake up feeling groggy, foggy brained, hard to concentrate throughout the day, and not operating at 100% or even 75%? You traded higher quality sleep for a quick sleep hack. Cheap solutions are going to give you cheap results.
Do you ride this vicious rollercoaster? You wake up exhausted and hit a steady stream of caffeine all day long and then when you finally have time to relax you are wired, so you pour yourself some wine to relax and fall asleep only to repeat it again the next day. Getting off this ride is hard.
How to relax without alcohol:
If you need help to relax in the evening checkout some of the teas that have valerian root in them or are designed for sleep like this one from Yogi (https://yogiproducts.com/teas/herbal-teas/kava-stress-relief/) It is suggested to drink kava for 2 weeks to really start feeling the benefits.
My favorite option for calming myself at night and boosting my deep sleep up to 30% has been taking a magnesium glycinate supplement. Every night about an hour before bed I take 1/4tsp of magnesium glycinate in some mineral water or tea. Tracking with my Oura ring I can see my deep sleep go up on the nights I do this. This is the brand I use. The powder does have a unique taste to it, so if you are sensitive to taste go with a pill form.
Other options are deep breathing techniques, meditation, brain.fm brain wave app, progressive muscle relaxation, and light massage/stretching.
Alcohol has a fairly short half life (the time needed to be broken down in your body) so you can have a glass of wine at dinner or a beer, but 2-3 glasses is not and before bed is definitely a no go.
If you currently are using alcohol to get you to sleep it is time to reevaluate your routine. It is not serving you or your health. The first step is to start telling yourself that you do not need alcohol’s help. You are not dependent on it to fall asleep. If you believe you can’t fall asleep without it, your brain is going to make that true. So play that same game in reverse.
What is the alcohol providing for you? What job is it doing besides helping you fall asleep. The falling asleep is a byproduct of alcohol. You are using alcohol as a proxy to avoid something or forget something that is painful to confront. Is it a job that you hate, but the uncertainty of looking for a new one too scary? Is it money issues and trying to forget them instead of coming up with a plan easier to do? I don’t know what is going on in your life, but alcohol has never been the solution.
Seek out some alternatives for relaxing at night. It might be one thing or a combination of things that works for you. Be brave. Experiment and give things a chance. Don’t expect to have the same effect right away, but as you start shifting your habits your sleep is going to get better, your going to be able to deal with stress better, you are going to be more creative to solve your problems or seek help, and you are going to be healthier.
My name is Jason Piper and I am a certified sleep coach from Detroit,MI. I help people and businesses to rebuild their sleep for more energy, concentration, and creativity. Join my Sleep Quest to improve your sleep tonight.