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Problem sleeping? Alcohol consumption could be the reason

How often have you had a drink to ‘help you sleep better’? Well, although moderate alcohol consumption is considered safe, no amount of alcohol is recommended. This is because alcohol affects every individual differently, again also depending on other factors such as a person’s age, sex, their body time and size. And while alcohol gives a feeling of relaxation and sleepiness, studies show that alcohol consumption -especially in excess- is associated with poor sleep quality and duration.

Alcohol’s effect on sleep has been studied since 1930s and findings from various researches shown that people who take excess alcohol before going to bed are more likely to experience sleep disruptions and poor quality of sleep. Sleep onset is often quicker when you are drunk, however, as the night progresses, the induced sleep causes an imbalance in the regular sleep cycle resulting in shorter and disrupted sleep.

Insomnia (inability to sleep despite the desire to) can also result from alcohol consumption. Drinkers can struggle to fall asleep, and have a daytime that is sleepy and exhausting. Such individuals will take to using caffeine to keep awake the next day, and it could end up in a vicious cycle, of using alcohol to fall asleep and caffeine to keep awake. Using alcohol as a sedative can also build a tolerance so that over time, you increase alcohol consumption in order to achieve the sedative effect.

Binge drinking- consuming more than the standard drink within 2 hours – has also been shown to affect the ability to fall and stay asleep in both men and women and across age groups. Ultimately, long time alcohol abuse has been associated with chronic sleep disorders.

Important to note, is that women experience the effects of alcohol earlier and on much lower doses than men. This has been attributed to women having lower levels of the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase which metabolises alcohol, lower body weights, as well as lower amounts of water in the body. As such, women are more likely to have higher amounts of alcohol concentration in the blood than men who have consumed the same amount of alcohol.

So if you are struggling to sleep, try not have alcohol for at least 6 hours before bed time.


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Christine Nderitu

As a licensed Nutritionist and Public Health Practitioner, Christine, helps people lead healthy lifestyles through education and behaviour change practices that are simple and practical. Her area of expertise lies not just in nutrition management but in health education and promotion in HIV/AIDS, Adolescent Health, Maternal and Child Health as well as Non-Communicable Diseases, which she has engaged in for a decade. She is also a columnist in a leading local Daily. Christine has a keen interest in Non-Communicable Diseases prevention and control. She feels that the world needs more stories that celebrate and normalize desired (good) behaviour, and humanity. “We have many preventable and often manmade public health issues today.”