Many people wrongly assume that alcohol aids sleep; while it can induce drowsiness, it has now been proven to disrupt the quality of sleep and negatively affect the brain function the following day.
According to scientists, this is because alcohol increases the activity in the frontal section of the brain, hampering the chances of a deep, restorative sleep. The study in question looked at 24 students, with equal numbers of men and women aged between 18 and 21.
The study (carried out by the University of Melbourne) found that non-rapid eye movement sleep was increased while alcohol ‘exerted an arousal influence’ on the brain. Tests using pre-sleep alcohol and a placebo found that this lack of REM sleep also debilitated some subject’s cognitive functions upon waking and for hours later.
Functions that were affected by pre-sleep alcohol included memory and processing of information. One of the study’s authors, Dr Christian Nicholas told the Daily Mail the following:
“Similar increases in alpha-delta activity, which are associated with poor or unrefreshing sleep and daytime function, have been observed in individuals with chronic pain conditions.
“Thus, if sleep is being disrupted regularly by pre-sleep alcohol consumption, particularly over long periods of time, this could have significant detrimental effects on daytime well-being and neurocognitive function such as learning and memory processes.”
Rather than using alcohol as a sleeping aid, try to instigate a relaxing wind-down routine before bed. This could include a soothing bath, followed by a warm milky drink and reading before bed. For more tips to getting a good night’s sleep, read our six steps to better sleep blog.