Alcohol use before bed may seem like a good way to get to sleep, but new research shows that this can actually promote sleep disruptions in the night. A drink will have an initial sedative effect but it will not help you get a restful sleep, and researchers performed studies using EEGs and other diagnostic tests to identify why this happens. University of Melbourne in Australia researchers looked at EEG activity which showed the changes that occur during sleep after alcohol is consumed. One of the study authors, Christian L. Nicholas, Ph.D., said “People likely tend to focus on the commonly reported sedative properties of alcohol, which is reflected in shorter times to fall asleep, particularly in adults, rather than the sleep disruption that occurs later in the night. The reduction in delta frequency EEG activity we see across the ages is thought to represent normal brain maturational processes as the adolescent brain continues to develop to full maturity.
Dr. Nicholas continued by saying “Although the exact function of non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) sleep, and in particular SWS, is a topic of debate, it is thought to reflect sleep need and quality, thus any disruption to this may affect the underlying restorative properties of sleep and be detrimental to daytime functioning.” Since alcohol use causes sleep disruptions later in the night it should be avoided. The initial sedative effect benefit does not outweigh the drawbacks that occur. Nicholas noted that alcohol should not be used as a sleep aid, and said “Similar increases in alpha-delta activity, which are associated with poor or unrefreshing sleep and daytime function, have been observed in individuals with chronic pain conditions. Thus, if sleep is being disrupted regularly by pre-sleep alcohol consumption, particularly over long periods of time, this could have significant detrimental effects on daytime well being and neurocognitive function, such as learning and memory processes.”