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Alcohol and sleep quality links investigated

Margaret Jack  By Margaret Jack   |   Posted in Sleep Research   |   Last updated: Monday 11th February 2013

An in-depth study of the results of various alcohol and sleep investigations in the US has revealed an interesting correlation into how drinking actually impacts on sleep quality. Previous research had consistently found that drinking before bedtime was a universally bad idea for achieving good sleep, however the investigation found that this wasn’t strictly the case.

The study, published in “Alcoholism: Clinical and Experiment Research”, looked at the findings of twenty different research programmes covering a total of 517 individuals and almost 40 sleep experiments. In each of the investigations the participants were described as healthy young adults without alcohol or sleep problems, and the tests were based on the sleep response to low (1-2 drinks), moderate (3-4 drinks) and high (4 or more drinks) alcohol intake.

During each of the twenty studies it was found that alcohol consumption of all volumes increased slow-wave sleep, the ‘deep’ sleep in which the body undergoes various physically rejuvenating processes. For the healthy participants in the studies this was a largely positive response, however researchers noted that those prone to sleep apnea or sleepwalking could find that alcohol worsens symptoms during this stage of sleep. However, in the studies where participants drank a high amount of alcohol – four or more drinks – levels of REM sleep, the deepest sleep phase in which memory consolidation occurs, were markedly reduced.

Therefore the findings suggest that a moderate intake of alcohol doesn’t negatively affect sleep quality for most people, but excessive consumption harms an important part of sleep. In short, the more alcohol you drink the more likely it is that your sleep will suffer.

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