Can’t Sleep? Try to Avoid Having a “Night Cap”

This past weekend, I went away with some family. We rented a place up north for some rest. And although I felt well-rested and relaxed while I was up there, I do not feel as recharged as I would like.

The reason was that I didn’t sleep well the last night. It was a comfy bed in a tranquil, dark room. It couldn’t have been more perfect for a great sleep. The problem, however, is that I elected to have a few drinks between dinner and bedtime. The result was tossing, turning, and an inability to fall into a deep sleep.

Alcohol is a depressant, which is what’s led to the myth of the night-cap. The idea is that booze makes people tired, which it does, so you should drink it before bed. But even though it makes you feel sleepy, it does not promote good quality sleep.

One review of 27 studies shows that total alcohol may have short-term effects on sleep, like helping people go down quicker, but it reduces rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. This means it reduces overall sleep quality and inhibits sleep ability in the latter half of your overnight slumber. Reduced REM sleep makes it harder to dream and does not allow the brain to adequately restore itself, consolidate and store memories, and provide the proper recharge needed to have a productive day. When REM sleep is slashed, you’re more likely to feel drowsy the next day, have a hard time concentrating, and not feel your best.

One glass of wine with dinner may not do much to diminish sleep. But a second glass, and then maybe an after-dinner drink in the evening can start to influence sleep in a negative way. And the more you have, the more pronounced the problem.

If you’re struggling with sleep, don’t turn to alcohol—it won’t help. And if you’re going away for a relaxing and restorative weekend, cap your evening drinks at one or two! I wish I did!

Author Bio

Mohan Garikiparithi got his degree in medicine from Osmania University (University of Health Sciences). He practiced clinical medicine for over a decade before he shifted his focus to the field of health communications. During his active practice he served as the head of the Dept. of Microbiology in a diagnostic centre in India. On a three-year communications program in Germany, Mohan developed a keen interest in German Medicine (Homoeopathy), and other alternative systems of medicine. He now advocates treating different medical conditions without the use of traditional drugs. An ardent squash player, Mohan believes in the importance of fitness and wellness.

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