Boozing & Snoozing: How Alcohol Affects Sleep

By Ashley Little

In a survey of over 1,000 adults, 55% of respondents believe they get a good night’s sleep after drinking alcohol. Although alcohol can make you drowsy and help you fall asleep, it harms your sleep quality through the night. In fact, 25% of this same group reports experiencing restlessness and waking up often throughout the night after drinking.

Want to learn more about the true impact alcohol has on your sleep? Read on to see the full results.

drunk man falling asleep on the sofa

There’s a common misconception among the population that alcohol can help you get better sleep at night. Many people believe this to be true because of the drowsy effect you feel from drinking alcohol that may help you fall asleep, but alcohol causes a major disruption in your healthy sleeping cycles.

We surveyed over 1,000 adults to see just how many people are operating under this false belief and uncover the true impact that alcohol has on people’s sleep. Then, we looked at the severity of hangover symptoms people are experiencing the next day after a bad night of sleep.

graphic of man sleeping in bed

Over half the population believes they get a good night’s sleep after drinking alcohol. Knowing what we know about how alcohol affects your sleep quality, we didn’t think this could possibly be true, so we dug deeper to learn about the real experience these people are having when they fall asleep after a night of drinking.

Sleep Problems After Drinking

Of the 55 percent who believe they get a good night’s sleep after drinking alcohol, they also report many sleep problems after late-night drinking:

graphic of alcohol bottles

The worst of the issues people face after drinking include restlessness and waking up often throughout the night (25%), sleeping hot (23%), and nausea/vomiting (19%).

The Hangovers that Follow

We then asked this group about the hangover symptoms they’re experiencing the next day. The results were staggering.

graphic depicting hangover symptoms

The most common hangover effects people deal with the next day are headaches (31%), fatigue (20%), and nausea/vomiting (20%).

How Alcohol Ruins Your Sleep

The disturbances people reported aren’t surprising to see. Alcohol may help you feel drowsy and you fall asleep easier, but your sleep quality suffers, especially in the second half of the night.

Alcohol can ruin your sleep in a variety of ways:

graphic showing how alcohol harms sleep

The main issues tie back to changes in your heart rate, the REM rebound effect, and the suppression of melatonin production.

Changes in Heart Rate

Drinking alcohol will cause your heart rate to escalate. Once this happens, your blood vessel will dilate and this can lead to excessive perspiration – aka night sweats.

REM Rebound Effect

In a normal sleep cycle, you will experience all four stages of sleep fix to six times throughout the night, and you will reach REM sleep approximately every 90 minutes. When you drink alcohol and then fall asleep, REM sleep is suppressed in the first few cycles. Then, in the latter cycles, your body goes through an REM rebound period where you spend more time in REM stage sleep.

This pattern is not healthy, and it explains many of the sleep issues people experience after drinking before bed.

Melatonin Suppression

Melatonin is the hormone that regulates our circadian rhythm and helps our body determine when to be awake or asleep. A recent study from the National Institute of Health found that a moderate dose of alcohol before bedtime can decrease the body’s melatonin production by nearly 20 percent.

Other Causes

Other reasons your sleep may be negatively impacted by drinking alcohol include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Increased snoring, sleep apnea, or breathing problems
  • Increased risk of sleepwalking or other parasomnias

Who Suffers Most by Generation

Patterns of alcohol use and the risk for alcohol-related problems can vary greatly by age group. The body’s ability to process alcohol changes and slows down with age, so we segmented our results by generational groups in order to see who is affected the worst. The two ends of the age spectrum – traditionalists and Gen Z – had the worst symptoms.

graphic of an old man

Traditionalists

(Born before 1946)

People in this age group are:

  • Sleeping the hottest (36.84%)
  • Having the craziest dreams (26.32%)
  • And they’re most dizzy the next day (20%)
graphic of a gen z man

Gen Zs

(1996 – Present)

Those in Generation Z are:

  • Having the most trouble falling asleep (20.36%)
  • The most nauseous the next day (20.38%)
  • The most sensitive to light and sound the next day (17.93%)

The Generations In Between

Take a look at how the generations in between these two ends of the spectrum are being affected as well.

graphic of different age groups

People in Generation X (born 1965-1976) are the most fatigued the next day with 24% of people in this age group reporting this issue. Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) have the most headaches (35%) and the most restless sleep (30%), and Millennials (born 1977-1995) are the most nauseous at night (20%).

Hangover Recovery

With so many people waking up with severe hangover symptoms, we wondered: Are they doing anything to try to recover?

graphic of hangover recovery methods

We found that people use a variety of methods for recovering from their hangovers, including drinking water (32%), eating food (27%), taking a shower (19%), taking over-the-counter medications (15%), exercise (5%), or alternative methods (3%).

Hangover Prevention

But we also wondered, if people are suffering from such bad hangovers in the morning, are there any methods they’ve learned to practice before bed to help prevent a hangover?

graphic of hangover prevention methods

Many people are practicing the same prevention methods that they use for a hangover recovery once they wake up. These include drinking water (42%), eating food (33%), taking a shower (11%), taking over-the-counter medications (12%), and other alternative methods (2%).

Less Boozing, More Snoozing

Everything we found from our survey validated our initial judgement: Alcohol can cause true harm to your sleep and leave you feeling worthless the next day.

The real shock came with finding out just how many people think they’re getting a good night’s sleep after drinking alcohol. The further results on the sleep troubles and hangover symptoms they face all resulted from this same group of people who claim they sleep well.

The drowsy effect from drinking alcohol or ending the evening with a nightcap may seem like a helpful sleep aid, but it ends up doing a lot of harm in the end. For a healthy night’s sleep, you should avoid alcohol (especially excessive amounts) in the evening or last few hours before bed. If the drowsy effect helps you wind down, consider alternative methods such as a warm bath, turning away from technology, meditating, reading a book, or practicing light stretches. Soon, you’ll be on your way to happier and healthier nights of rest.


Methodology

We surveyed over 1,000 adults on the effects of their drinking habits on their sleep, their experience suffering from hangovers, and how they recover and prevent hangovers.

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See the full infographic

Infographic

infographic on the effects alcohol has on sleep quality

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