When you’re lying awake tossing and turning or are stressed out from your day, it can be tempting to unwind with a glass of alcohol. Drinking can help you to loosen up and feel more relaxed. Before you know it, your eyes are heavy and you’re drifting off to sleep. It seems like a simple fix for a common problem, but it can actually have the opposite effect from what you intended and make your sleep worse. In addition, regular drinking – especially as a nightly tool to help you fall asleep – can increase your risk of developing alcoholism. Your brain and body become accustomed to having alcohol and can go through withdrawal when you try to stop, making you feel worse.
How Alcohol Interferes with Sleep
Yes, alcohol can make you fall asleep more quickly, but you do not sleep as soundly or receive the same quality of sleep you would without alcohol. When your body falls into a deep sleep soon after you lay down, you miss out on valuable REM sleep. This is the period of time thought to be most restorative to your brain and body. In fact, those who drink regularly tend to have fewer REM cycles per night than those who do not. Without this quality sleep, you may wake up more frequently and not feel as rested. This leaves you feeling drowsy, clouds your thinking, and can leave you more irritable.
Furthermore, alcohol is a stimulant and a diuretic, so you may wake up more frequently during the night to use the restroom or because you’re not in a sound, deep sleep. Noises around you can be disturbing. Drinking may lead you to get fewer hours of restful sleep per night instead of more.
Falling Asleep More Naturally
Before you reach for a drink or an over-the-counter sleep aid, consider more natural methods of improving your sleep. There are things that you can do to help yourself feel more tired at night and fall asleep on your own instead of relying on drugs or alcohol.
- Stop drinking caffeine by midafternoon. Caffeine is a stimulant and may make it harder to fall asleep if you drink it close to bedtime.
- Get moderate exercise each day. This will help to burn off excess energy and stress and leave you feeling more tired by the end of the day and ready for sleep.
- Stick to a regular schedule for bedtime and wake time. Get your body into a routine so it becomes accustomed to winding down and going to sleep at a certain time.
- Turn off all screens within an hour or two of when you want to go to sleep. This means phones, computers, tablets, televisions, etc. The light from the screen can stimulate your mind instead of calming it. Unwind by reading a book, writing, or doing something else relaxing.
- Journal before bed to get the thoughts swirling through your mind onto paper. This can help to clear your head and ease concerns you may have over things that happened during the day or what may happen.
- Try meditation or yoga as other ways to clear your mind and reduce stress.
Figure out what works best for you by trying several different approaches – and giving them time to take effect. Falling asleep naturally can leave you feeling more refreshed and rested each morning, ready to take on the day.
If you find yourself turning to alcohol as your go-to form of stress relief or sleep aid, you may be at higher risk for alcohol use disorder. Treatment at Crossroads can help you live a healthier, more enjoyable life free from drugs or alcohol. Remember who you wanted to be and contact Crossroads today to learn more about our addiction and dual diagnosis treatment programs.
[cta] If your drinking has become problematic and is the only thing to get you to sleep, contact Crossroads to find out how we can help. [/cta]