Drinking alcohol to get asleep is a double edged experience.
While it may get you off to sleep more quickly, it is also associated with sleep disruption later in the night.
The alcohol initially acts as a sedative but “the take-home message here is that alcohol is not actually a particularly good sleep aid even though it may seem like it helps you to get to sleep quicker.
“In fact the quality of the sleep you get is significantly altered and disrupted” says Christian Nicholas of the Sleep Research Laboratory at the University of Melbourne.
Nicholas and his colleagues looked at the sleep patterns of 24 men and women in the 18-21 age group who were social drinkers consuming less than seven standard drinks a week.
Each participant had both pre-sleep alcohol at one point and a placebo at another and then underwent polysonography tests with EEG recordings to analyse their sleep patterns.
While the alcohol induced Slow Wave Sleep is also increased frontal alpha power which is thought to reflect disturbed sleep.
Nicholas warns that the disruption of sleep in this way over long periods of time could have “significant detrimental effects on daytime wellbeing and neurocognitive function such as learning and memory processes”.
His findings are published online in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.