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article imageHow alcohol 'disrupts sleep cycles'

By Eileen Kersey     Jan 24, 2013 in Health
London - Do you enjoy a 'night-cap' at bedtime? Many people enjoy an alcoholic drink before they retire for the night, believing it will aid a restful night. On the contrary it may disturb your slumber.
A glass of whiskey before bedtime may help you quickly drift off to sleep but will it ensure a good night's slumber? New research suggests it will not.
The London Sleep Centre, in the UK, looks at all aspects of sleep. It investigates the causes of sleep disorders and looks at the causes. In one of its latest projects the team at the centre have been investigating the effect alcohol may have on sleep patterns.
The BBC reports that the research team discovered that alcohol, "cuts the time it takes to first nod off and sends us into a deep sleep, it also robs us of one of our most satisfying types of sleep, where dreams occur." Far from aiding sleep alcohol upsets our normal sleep cycles.
Dr Irshaad Ebrahim, head of the research team involved, now advises against a 'tipple' at bedtime. His advice is,
We should be very cautious about drinking on a regular basis. One or two glasses might be nice in the short term, but if you continue to use a tipple before bedtime it can cause significant problems. If you do have a drink, it's best to leave an hour and a half to two hours before going to bed so the alcohol is already wearing off.
The research conclusions followed trials involving more than a 100 cases. The study found that the volunteers involved in the research soon fell asleep, after a night-cap. A very deep sleep quickly followed.
Sleep has different stages. One is rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. REM sleep usually occurs around 90 minutes after falling asleep. This is when our dreams occur. Alcohol reduced the amount of time the 'human guinea pigs' spent in the REM sleep stage. This means that their sleep was not 'restful'.
The director of the Edinburgh Sleep Centre, Chris Idzikowski, agrees.Alcohol on the whole is not useful for improving a whole night's sleep. Sleep may be deeper to start with, but then becomes disrupted. Additionally, that deeper sleep will probably promote snoring and poorer breathing. So, one shouldn't expect better sleep with alcohol.
The general consensus is that the more alcohol you drink before bed the more your sleep will be disturbed. You may be 'dead drunk', but the quality of your sleep will be poor. Although part of sleep following alcohol may be deeper it will not be restful. Alcohol can also cause an increase in snoring, poor breathing and can leave you dehydrated.
According to webmd, The body's response to alcohol is more complicated than you might think. Alcohol affects the rhythm of sleep. It acts as a sedative at first, but then a few hours later when blood alcohol level drops, it will wake you up again.
The study is due to be published in the April edition of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.
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