Alcohol Can Affect Your Sleep: Here’s How

Alcohol has a reputation for making us feel sleepy, which can be confusing for many people when they find out that alcohol can actually disrupt your sleep. Alcohol is a sedative that can make you feel relaxed, and if you drink alcohol, you most likely drink at night in the hours before bedtime. However, there are many ways that alcohol can negatively impact your sleep and cause other health conditions, daytime repercussions, and lead to more serious issues. Keep reading to learn more about how alcohol can affect your sleep and what you can do to get better sleep, including sleep apnea treatment.

How Does Alcohol Affect Sleep?

How much alcohol you drink and when you drink it can influence sleep. As you consume alcohol, it is rapidly absorbed into your bloodstream, where it remains until your liver is able to metabolize it, typically at a rate of about one drink per hour. If you have alcohol in your bloodstream when you go to sleep, you are likely to experience alterations in sleep architecture—that is, how your body cycles through the four stages of sleep.

The typical sleep cycle begins with three non-rapid eye movement (NREM) stages of sleep and ends with rapid eye movement (REM). During sleep, the body cycles through all of these stages every 90 to 120 minutes, with NREM sleep dominating the first part of the night and REM increasing during the second part of the night. Each stage is necessary for sleep to feel refreshing and for vital processes like learning and memory consolidation to occur.

When you go to bed with alcohol in your system, you’re likely to experience more N3 sleep—known as “deep sleep”—and less REM sleep than usual, at least initially. Later in the night, once your body has metabolized the alcohol, you’re likely to experience a rise in N1 sleep, the lightest stage of sleep. This can lead to frequent wakings and fragmented, low-quality sleep.

Sleep Apnea

One of the many ways that alcohol can negatively impact sleep is by causing sleep apnea and chronic snoring. Alcohol is a sedative that causes relaxing effects throughout the body. Alcohol has the tendency to relax the airways and neck muscles a little too much, which leads to an obstruction in the airway. This obstruction leads to chronic snoring and mouth breathing. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when there is an obstruction in the airway, which can be caused by drinking alcohol.

Mouth breathing and snoring are not the body’s natural way to breathe. The correct, natural way to breathe is through the nose, which acts as a filter to keep out toxins and bacteria from the lungs. This allows for high-quality oxygen to enter your lungs and bloodstream. When low-quality oxygen enters the lungs and bloodstream through the mouth, it can lead to several issues, such as dental problems, weight gain, frequent illnesses, and more.


Drinking heavy amounts of alcohol can also lead to insomnia. Insomnia is when an individual has difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. People who suffer from insomnia tend to self-medicate with alcohol, which can cause an alcohol use disorder. They may also drink too much caffeine during the day to stay awake, which causes issues at night when they try to fall asleep. For many people suffering from insomnia, staying away from alcohol and caffeine can greatly help their symptoms and allow for a better night’s sleep.

Frequent Awakenings

As mentioned, once your body has metabolized the alcohol, you’ll likely experience a rise in N1 sleep, the lightest stage of sleep. This can lead to frequent wakings and fragmented, low-quality sleep. In addition, alcohol is a diuretic, which means it makes you urinate more often as it promotes water loss and dehydration. If you drink a large amount of alcohol, you may feel the need to get up and go use the restroom more often than you normally would at night.

In addition, alcohol can cause anxiety and depression to trigger. Blood pressure rises, and the heart beats faster than it normally would, which can cause frequent awakenings throughout the night. Anxious thoughts while drinking or hungover can also occur.

Daytime Repercussions

Everyone who has had a rough night of sleep—whether thanks to alcohol, sleep apnea, or another issue—understands how difficult the next day can feel. On top of the hangover or other alcohol withdrawal symptoms you may be experiencing, you may be adding sleep deprivation to that list. Having a rare rough night of sleep won’t cause you too many issues beyond the next couple of days; however, if it is a frequent occurrence, many health issues may start to occur.

Excessive Daytime Sleepiness

One of the most difficult symptoms of a rough night’s sleep is excessive daytime sleepiness. Everyone knows the feeling of how tiring it can be to function the day after a sleepless night. However, if it is a regular occurrence, excessive daytime sleepiness can start to set in.

The most common causes of excessive daytime sleepiness are sleep deprivation, obstructive sleep apnea, and sedatives. Alcohol is a sedative, which means that alcohol can cause everything on that list to happen. Alcohol will cause sleep deprivation, it will cause obstructive sleep apnea, and it is a sedative. Moral of the story? If you are a frequent or heavy drinker and are experiencing sleep issues and excessive daytime sleepiness, quitting or cutting back on your alcohol use will give you a better quality of life.

Weight Gain

Individuals who experience excessive daytime sleepiness may find themselves napping frequently, drinking excessive amounts of coffee or sugary drinks, eating poorly, not taking the time to cook healthy meals because they are too tired, and not having enough energy to exercise and stay active. All of this can, obviously, cause weight gain.

In addition, sleep apnea can cause weight gain to occur. As mentioned earlier in this blog, sleep apnea allows low-quality oxygen into the lungs and bloodstream. This means that the body isn’t running at optimal levels and doesn’t have the right fuel to promote weight loss. This means that if you suffer from sleep issues and are actively trying to lose weight but aren’t seeing results, it is thanks to your sleep apnea and mouth breathing.

Cardiovascular Issues

Sleep apnea and other sleep issues can cause cardiovascular health problems and put individuals at a high risk of them occurring. Some of these include:

  • Coronary heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Transient ischaemic attack
  • Peripheral arterial disease
  • Aortic disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart arrhythmia

Cutting down on alcohol use and maintaining a healthy weight are two of the best ways to significantly reduce your risk of a cardiovascular issue. However, if you suffer from sleep apnea, it can be difficult to reduce your risk without getting proper sleep apnea treatment. Sleep apnea does not go away on its own and will actually worsen over time.

How Can I Get Better Sleep?

If you are impacted by the negative effects of alcohol, such as insomnia, frequent awakenings, and sleep apnea, there are many things you can do to help get better sleep at night and rid yourself of excessive daytime sleepiness, weight gain, and the risk of cardiovascular issues.

Refresh Your Bedtime Habits

A great way to help yourself get a better night’s sleep is to refresh your bedtime habits and routine. A few tips include:

  • Pick a bedtime and a wake-up time and stick to it. This might take a while to get used to, but it will help put your body into a rhythm and routine so that it knows when to expect sleep.
  • Stay out of your bed unless you’re sleeping. One of the best sleep tips for children can also carry into adulthood: Do your best to make sure your bedroom is just for sleeping! Take out TVs, tablets, and other distracting items, and keep your room’s vibe cool and calm.
  • Try a noise machine or sleep mask. Many adults find success with a white noise machine or a sleep eye mask to help them fall asleep and get a better quality of sleep.

Lifestyle Changes

If you’re ready to commit to making some lifestyle changes, there are a number of things you can change, starting today, to allow for a better night’s sleep tonight. These lifestyle changes include:

  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Exercising regularly, but no later than 2 hours before bedtime
  • Limit caffeine
  • Avoid smoking
  • Keep your naps short
  • Quit drinking alcohol
  • Keep meals small right before bed, or wait 3 hours after your last meal
  • Avoid screentime in the hour leading up to bedtime
  • Practice meditation techniques to promote stress management
  • Drink more water

Sleep Apnea Treatment

One of the best things you can do for your sleep is to consider sleep apnea treatment. Your mind probably immediately pictured a CPAP machine, right? Don’t worry, sleep apnea treatment does not automatically mean that you are destined for a life strapped to a loud machine.

Our treatment employs a multidisciplinary treatment plan that uses noninvasive, cost-effective oral appliance technology prescribed by our trained dentists and medical professionals to treat dentofacial abnormalities and/or mild-to-moderate OSA and snoring. In fact, our office is one of the very few in the Los Angeles area that prescribe it, and, depending on your commitment to the treatment, you will see results in as little as 12 months. This revolutionary treatment is called The Vivos Method.

How Much Alcohol Is Safe to Drink Before Bed?

While there is no “safe” amount of alcohol to drink—any amount of alcohol will have an effect on your body—there is an amount you can drink that may give you a lower chance of sleep disruption.

If you drink alcohol, try not to exceed the recommended limit of 14 alcohol units a week for men and women. If you do drink this much, you should aim to spread your drinking over three days or more. A unit of alcohol is roughly equivalent to half a pint of normal-strength lager or a single measure (25ml) of spirits. A small glass of wine (125ml) is about 1.5 units.

Remember: The more alcohol your drink and the closer you drink it to bedtime, the stronger its effects will be.

Get Better Sleep with Gorman Health and Wellness

Dr. Gorman is a part of the breathing wellness movement, which aims to increase awareness and improve treatment for sleep-related airway conditions like sleep apnea. He has partnered with organizations focused on collaborating with dentists to apply the sciences of Craniofacial Epigenetics (the study of cranial modifications caused by gene expression as opposed to genetic code alteration) and Pneumopedics® (the practical application of oral appliance therapy and non-surgical airway remodeling) in the management of sleep apnea.

Together, the application of these sciences allows for underlying causes of airway obstruction to be treated in 98% of cases, resulting in a high success rate among sleep apnea patients. For every sleep apnea case at our practice, Dr. Gorman will gather patient data and determine the patient’s specific needs based on home sleep test results, dental impressions, CT scans, and images. Our state-of-the-art technology, paired with Dr. Gorman’s experience with sleep disorders, allows him to find the most effective treatment plan for each individual’s particular case, yielding improved daytime and nighttime breathing for the patient.

“I have been helping people suffering from Sleep Apnea with a non-invasive, clinically approved treatment method. This method has allowed my patients to sleep with far fewer events per hour allowing them to get rid of their CPAP and BiPAP machines. Imagine not having to use one of those machines, getting back a much greater quality of life along with the benefits of being able to breathe better.” – Dr. Gorman.

For more information on Dr. Gorman, improving your sleep apnea, or to schedule your consultation today, visit us at!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *