I’d like to wish all of you a very happy new year and wish you all the very best for 2013. May the year ahead bring much enlightenment and happiness!
How many drinks did you have last night? More than a few? If so, did you sleep very well? Want to know why not?
Alcohol makes you sleepy at first – it decreases what is known as the sleep onset latency – the time is takes to fall asleep. But we’ve known for awhile now that moderate intoxication disrupts your sleep, especially in the second half of the night. While sleeping, you go through several (usually 4 or 5 in one night) cycles of different stages of sleep. At the end of each cycle you enter what’s called REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, and these periods of REM last longer in the second half of the night compared to the first half. Disruption to REM sleep and slow wave sleep (the deep sleep stage that occurs right before REM sleep) is particularly damaging. Although we don’t exactly know why yet, many people believe that REM sleep is important in memory and learning.
Early research showed that even low alcohol doses reduce the amount of slow wave sleep in the second half of the night, and higher doses reduce the amount of REM sleep, as well. More recent research finds that, in particular, total sleep time and nighttime wakening were more disrupted by alcohol for women compared to men. Long term alcohol misuse means, then, that sleep deprivation during the night causes more daytime sleepiness and poor functioning (like screwing up at work because you’re too tired).
Don’t fret if you had a big one last night – our bodies are pretty good at rebounding from short-term disruptions. Get a good sleep tonight and you’ll feel fine the next day. It’s only when sleep disruptions, be they from alcohol, anxiety, social jet lag, or any cause, become chronic that you’ll start to see detrimental health effects.