Healthy Living

Why Should Those with Sleep Apnea Avoid Drinking Alcohol in the Evening?

Why Should Those with Sleep Apnea Avoid Drinking Alcohol in the Evening?

As many already know, the excessive consumption of alcoholic drinks may lead to many consequences, even for people who don’t suffer from any specific condition. But,  studies have shown that the risks that come with consuming alcohol increase while someone is suffering from sleep apnea.

Usually, people tend to love having a glass of wine before going to bed, especially since it has been proved that a glass of wine can help the body relax, along with many other benefits. And, this is not only with wine. There are also many other alcoholic drinks that may be the solution for when someone is not able to go to bed. But, is it a good idea to use them as a solution for not being able to fall asleep?

Having trouble to go to sleep is a common issue in Americans, affecting more than 70 million people throughout the whole country. Some of these people find alcoholic drinks an accessible and appealing option to achieve a restful night of sleep. Drinking alcohol is actually an effective way to reduce sleep latency before going to bed.

All this happens thanks to the sedative effects alcohol has, but it is only effective the first few times because people tend to develop a level of tolerance to these sedative effects only after 3 nights, making the body need more alcohol in order to trigger those sleep-inducing effects. Constantly drinking alcohol can produce alcohol dependency in the long term.

Differences between types of alcohol

The type of alcohol people drink plays a major role in these events as well. A study published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture in 2006 let know that there are several types of grapes that are rich in melatonin, which is the hormone that regulates sleep.

From the 8 grape types the study focused on, Nebbiolo showed to be the one that contained the largest amount of melatonin, reaching 0.965 nanograms per gram. Large amounts of melatonin were found in other types, such as Croatina and Barbera as well, while Cabernet Franc only contained trace amounts of melatonin.

Nevertheless, the same study revealed that using alcoholic drinks to fall asleep may not bring quality rest for the body.

The truth behind using alcoholic drinks to fall asleep

Studies in this area have shown that alcohol suppresses rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep, which is the phase of the sleeping cycle that is associated with dreaming, affecting the first stage of sleep significantly. According to a study published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, it showed that those who drank before going to bed experienced an increase in slow-wave sleep, which is usually defined as deep sleep only in the first couple of hours of sleeping, but later on they started experiencing numerous disruptions and a great number of awakenings.

The study monitored electrical impulses in the brain and those who drank alcohol were experiencing considerable difficulties during the second half of the night, indicating that alcohol impairs the standard restorative effects of sleep and can leave people feeling even more tired than they were before sleeping.

This phenomenon is usually called the “rebound effect” and it tends to happen around the same time that alcohol is being metabolized by the body. During the first stages of sleep, our bodies adjust to the presence of alcohol in the body, so they are able to maintain a normal sleep pattern. But, once the alcohol has been cleared from the body, adjustments done by the system start working the other way around, causing problems such as lighter stages of sleep or wakefulness.

Linking alcohol to sleep disorders

Alcohol is very likely to affect people with sleep disorders in a different way than it does to healthy people. This is the base for studies that focus on the effect of alcohol in disorders, such as sleep apnea, especially with the sedative effects during the second half of sleep.

Furthermore, it is worth mentioning that insomniacs can develop tolerance to sedative effects the same way healthy sleepers do, for that reason, alcohol is not recommended as a sleep aid for anyone. Also, in case the insomniac is taking any type of sleep medication, the consumption of alcohol is even more dangerous and should be avoided, because it can turn out to be deadly.

During these studies, it was noted that alcohol is able to exacerbate breathing problems presented during sleep. Also for healthy sleepers, it is recommended to visit a physician if their partners or close relatives notice loud snoring or breathing issues while being asleep

Recommendations for wine lovers

Constant disruptions in sleep can lead to a lack of energy during the daytime. Being drowsy and having that common feeling of sleepiness can translate into a poor performance of daily tasks. For someone considered to be a wine lover, there are some recommendations to follow in order to avoid sleeping problems caused by this rebound effect. Most of it is to enable sobering up while being still awake.

  • For wine lovers, it is recommended to have one 5-ounce glass of wine 3 hours prior to sleep, preferably while dining in order to allow the system to clear the alcohol before going to bed.
  • This 5-ounce glass of wine can be replaced by one 12-ounce beer for those people who prefer the emblematic golden drink.
  • These rules depend on the body of each person, since body weight, age, and other parameters play an essential role in how long it takes for someone to metabolize alcohol and clear it from their system.

These recommendations are excellent, along with other basic steps people need to take into account when looking to optimize their sleep. Creating habits, such as going to bed at the same time every day, following a healthy diet,  exercising on a daily basis and avoiding an accumulation of stress, is important in order to have a restful sleep.

Experts suggest that people should avoid using lights that are too bright in the evening, since it can disturb the circadian rhythm, making the internal body clock confuse and triggering alertness. Turning off the TV and shutting the blinds once the sun starts hiding is a good idea, whether the sleeper has consumed alcohol or not. Another common problem among sleepers is that in most cases they do not keep their phones out of sight, especially now that smartphones are able to fulfil many different functions.

The best option for sleepers is to find a place that promotes healthy rest, a dark and cool environment with a lot of space where the sleeper can feel comfortable, away from any environmental disturbance that may disrupt their sleep.

In case of consuming any kind of alcoholic drink, even 12 hours before sleeping, moderation is key and the excessive consumption of alcohol should always be avoided in order to allow the body to relax and avoid any complications that can be triggered by an excess amount of alcohol.