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Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Alcohol At Bedtime May Not Help Sleeping

Do you indulge in a nightcap to help sleeping? It may not be as effective as you had believed, new research suggests.

A large study on alcohol’s effects on sleep shows that drinking alcohol before bed may disrupt sleep and increase wakefulness, affecting women more than men. (The detailed research will be reported in the May 2011 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Researchers)

Leader of the study J.Todd Arnedt, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Neurology at the University of Michigan, says in a news release: “It’s clear that a substantial portion of the population uses alcohol on a regular basis to help with sleep problems. This perception may relate to the fact that alcohol helps people fall asleep quickly and they may be less aware of the disruptive effects of alcohol on sleep later in the night.”

The study, which included 93 healthy adults in their 20s (59 women and 34 men), took place over two nights, the first night with an alcoholic drink and the second night with a “placebo” drink.

The participants were monitored during their sleep and filled out questionnaires on sleepiness and sleep quality before bedtime and when awakened the next morning.

Alcohol and Sleep: Men versus Women


The findings showed that alcohol interfered in the women's sleep more than in the men's. Women’s total sleep time was reduced by 19 minutes, sleep efficiency decreased by 4%, and there was a 15-minute increase in the time they spent awake during the night after drinking alcohol, compared to the placebo night. Sleep continuity following an alcoholic drink compared to the placebo was not materially different in men.

These differences may be related to differences in alcohol metabolism,” states Arnedt, “since women show a more rapid decline in “breath alcohol” following alcohol consumption than men.”


To sum up, it seems that, for women, an alcololic drink before bedtime is not going to help sleeping. It remains to be seen what results a larger amount of alcohol before bedtime would produce with regard to sleep quality and it's my guess that, if this kind of experiment were carried out, it would conclude that both women and men are substantially affected and that their sleep quality is very poor. Forget the nightcap if you need help sleeping - it's counter-productive!