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  • Writer's pictureMartha Lewis

5 Ways Alcohol Affects Your Sleep

Updated: Mar 23

You probably know that alcohol isn't good for your sleep. But it can still be hard to motivate not to drink. I want to tell you exactly how alcohol affects your sleep so that you can decide whether it's worth it to you to try not drinking so you can sleep better.

Here are the 6 ways alcohol affects your sleep:

1. The GABA receptors Alcohol targets the GABA receptors in the brain. GABA is our anti-anxiety neurotransmitter and 80% of the neurons in your brain have GABA receptors. When alcohol gets in those receptors, it causes us to feel sleepy and relaxed. So that's how it can help you fall asleep.

4 hours later, though, those Gaba receptors retreat back into the neuron. The neurons keep trying to fire but they can’t get in to the receptors. So those neurons keep firing faster and faster which simulates you and wakes you up. That's why alcohol can help you fall asleep but it sure doesn't help you stay asleep.

2. Your quality of sleep

Studies show that alcohol affects how the sleep stages. It increases non-REM sleep and actually decreases REM sleep.

3. It depletes nutrients

Alcohol depletes certain vitamins and minerals:

  • B vitamins

  • Minerals such as calcium, magnesium and zinc

  • Vitamin A, C, D, E

You need to be absorbing all of these nutrients to be healthy and sleep well.

4. It’s inflammatory

Alcohol causes a lot of inflammation in the body. Inflammation is one of the main reasons why you can't sleep because when there’s inflammation, your body releases cortisol to fight that inflammation. When your body releases cortisol at night it's going to wake you up.

My goal when I work with clients is to lower as much inflammation as possible. There are other sources of inflammation I look for such as food, gut pathogens, food sensitivities, and any kind of stress. But alcohol can be a significant contributor to inflammation so it's definitely important to minimize alcohol if you aren't sleeping.

5. Causes blood sugar fluctuations

Alcohol affects our blood sugar levels because it’s pure sugar to our bodies. Alcohol spikes your blood sugar. Then your body releases insulin to lower blood sugar which is going to make it really low. Then your body releases cortisol to raise your blood sugar again and you’re on the blood sugar roller coaster. When your blood sugar drops too low at night, your body releases cortisol and wakes you up.

6. Stresses your liver

Alcohol is another toxin that your liver has to deal with on top of the thousands of other chemicals we’re exposed to every day. If you can’t sleep, your liver likely isn’t healthy. The liver is most active between 1 and 3am and so if your liver has more toxins than it can handle, then they circulate around causing lots of inflammation and waking you up.

As you can see, I don’t recommend drinking alcohol if you can’t sleep!

If alcohol affects your sleep, then we know that your liver isn’t happy. This is just one piece of the puzzle.

I can help you find out exactly what’s affecting your health and give you a plan to correct it so you can sleep better soon. Book a call with me so you can sleep better in a few months!

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