How does my drinking affect my sleep and energy levels?

It is common for our Daybreak members to report feeling fatigued and low in energy.

Here is the double edge sword: sometimes feeling lethargic is the thing that triggers an urge to drink (for an energy boost at the end of the day). However, often people feel fatigued because of their drinking.

Drinking in the evening may help us fall asleep, but it will affect the quality and duration of our sleep.

For many people, sleep and energy is a major concern. While we are improving in health-related behaviours in general like eating and exercising, our commitment to getting enough sleep has not quite caught up.

Alcohol can allow you to hit that pillow pretty fast, but this intoxicated sleep differs to REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Studies have found that the depressive nature of alcohol disrupts the body’s natural ability to enter REM sleep.

Not getting enough sleep means we won’t be able to function at our highest rate. We may be moodier and more lethargic. It also can lead to more serious problems later in life like heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

Here are some (alarming) stats about sleep and health:

■ Two-thirds of adults in developed nations fail to obtain the nightly eight hours of sleep recommended by the World Health Organisation.

Centre for Human Sleep Science in California found that an adult sleeping only 6.75 hours a night would be predicted to live only to their early 60’s without medical intervention.

■ A 2013 study from the University of Southern Denmark reported that men who slept too little had a sperm count 29% lower than those who regularly get a full and restful night’s sleep.

So what can you do if you are just not getting enough sleep?

Ideas to improve the quality of your sleep, as well as your energy levels the next day:

Regularity– going to bed at the same time each evening is helpful in allowing ourselves to start to wind down automatically.

Light – limiting screen time or dimming the lights on our phones and computers can be helpful. As well as switching off the lights in our house several hours before bed. This helps our melatonin to rise before we go to sleep, making it easier for us to become drowsy and fall asleep faster, as well as sleep more deeply.

Temperature – it is easier to sleep in a cool room, and our brain needs to drop its temperature to sleep. The reason we often feel drowsy after a hot bath is that during the bath we experience vasodilation (blood rushing to the surface). When we leave the bath our core temperature plummets, making it easier for us to sleep. Sleeping in less clothes can also help with keeping the temperature low. Additionally, it is generally rising temperature that awakens us in the morning, rather than light. Keeping your room cool may help you to sleep longer in the morning.

Bi-Phasic Rest – everyone, regardless of their diet, experiences some degree of a postprandial dip in alertness after lunch. This usually happens between the hours of 2-4 (those with a more carbohydrate rich diet might experience more of a dip). Many people find that (if possible) a siesta can help with this, or else lunchtime exercise can help to activate and increase energy levels.

Familiarity – When we are in unfamiliar settings (such as hotel rooms or travelling), part of our brain is still active and we tend not to sleep as well as we normally do. Finding ways to make our environment more familiar when travelling can be helpful. Like sleeping by the window as you do at home, or engaging in grounding rituals (eg. hot shower before bed and reading) can help to mitigate some of the disruption to this familiarity.


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  • Sleep was one of the major reasons that I would drink at night. But I overdid it one night and fell out of bed. Waking up bruised and on the floor was my last stop. I have been AF for almost two months. But my saving grace has been medicinal marijuana. I don’t know if this is legal in Austrailia, but I am sleeping seven hours in a row. I look forward to the routine of a joint before bed, pleasant dreams, with no hangover ever. AND I have lost about 15 pounds. Sleeping is my motivation to continue this path. I am a 69 year old healthy woman, grateful I have found my personal solution. I intend to remain totally AF till the holidays when I will try to introduce a glass of wine with dinner, which I miss.

    By Betty Picone
    September 12, 2018
  • Is there any connection between REM sleep and dreaming?

    By Nerida
    September 13, 2018
  • Really helpful thank you. I’m always trying to explain (unsuccessfully) to my Mum why drinking is so bad for her sleep. Now I have somthething concrete to give her. Also, my husband always falls asleep with the tv on because he thinks he can’t fall asleep without it (it’s in his head I tell him) – seems so.

    By Suzie Welsh
    September 13, 2018
  • When I don’t drink I sleep seven to eight hours without waking up. If I do wake up it’s very brief. I no longer toss and turn. My body clock wakes me at the right time and I feel refreshed. When I drink, I toss, I turn, I lie awake for hours, and worst of all I sweat a lot. Then I wake up exhausted. If drinking or not was based on the rational mind it would be no contest.

    By Glady
    September 13, 2018
  • I have always had a light sleep pattern. I wake up with most noises. For the past 16 yrs I have worked night shift in an aged care environment. I love what I do, but the work load is very high and very stressful. Hence when I get home I feel I need to have a few drinks to wind down. Yes it helps me sleep but not a good sleep. I have never been able to sleep in other places, other than my bed. I have the room dark. I don’t have a hot shower before bed because it does not help me sleep. I am trying to not have a drink before I go to bed. I function very well at work.

    By Beefit
    September 13, 2018
  • I hàve been feeling very tried lately, and normally when I come home from work and I’m tried I will have a drink to keep me going. But not doing that now I feel tried but good.

    By Michelle
    September 13, 2018
  • My dad was an alcoholic, yes he’s dead, please don’t say sorry, he developed type 1 diabetes when he was in early 40’s, he always complained about lack of sleep. I am also an alcoholic and developed type 1 at 31, and only sleep about 2 or 3 hours a night. Is it possible that the diabetes and sleep are actually connected? I know that you have mentioned this possibility earlier on this page, but the link didn’t show any results for this. Might be interesting to the medical community to find out if people who sleep less become alcoholics. Could you maybe ask your members this question?

    By Gary Wilson
    September 13, 2018
  • Thanks very much for these comments. They all ring true and it feels good to know that many others have the same same link between alcohol and poor sleep.

    By Liz
    September 16, 2018
  • With work and school, it has been really hard to get enough sleep. Last year I always drank before bed. It was so hard to wake up. Instead of buying a 6 pack or a bottle of wine, I purchase one or two cans and have them with my meal. After that, I drink caffeine free tea. It is really hard not to drink and I hope this gets easier.

    By Heather McCracken
    September 18, 2018
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