Can Alcohol put you to sleep? Of course it can — especially when you consume more than you can handle! Or even better, if you happen to be one of those people who are extremely sensitive to alcohol. I.E. ~ You become sleepy after a couple sips of beer. Before you rush out for your favorite six-pack, let’s explore how alcohol makes people feel sleepy.
Why Alcohol Makes You So Tired?
Alcohol makes most people feel tired due to its powerful effects upon the central nervous system. Alcohol rushes through the bloodstream and crosses the blood-brain barrier. From there, alcohol molecules start playing havoc with the brain cells, otherwise referred to as neurons.
Within the neurons, alcohol targets protein molecules, which include GABA-A (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid) receptors. These receptors act as chemical messengers, allowing GABA to bind, which triggers a channel to open, allowing more Chloride Ions to move through the neuron’s receptors. Chloride entering inside the neuron acts like a light-dimmer, slowing the neuron’s firing. Reducing the neurons’ firing cause relaxation, sedation, and eventually sleepiness.
Drinking alcohol amplifies this effect, causing people to feel more relaxed and sleepier than normal. The further slow-down of firing neurons are also why physical coordination and thinking begin to degrade, making someone look and act “drunk”. For example, a person under the effects of alcohol will have slurred speech, act clumsy, and/or become forgetful. Eventually the slow-down will cause a person to fall asleep.
How fast this slow-down occurs relays heavily upon a person’s tolerance towards alcohol. People who drink heavily on a regular basis tend to develop a higher tolerance then those who drink on occasion. The lower your tolerance, the quicker you’ll feel alcohol’s effects.
Why Alcohol Before Bed is a Bad Idea?
My intention was to keep this article brief. But there will always be someone out there that will briefly scan the article and accuse me of encouraging people to drink to help them fall asleep. Honestly this issue deserves its own post because there is a ton of information and studies that show why consuming alcohol is bad for your sleep.
Here are the low-lights:
- Alcohol disrupts your Circadian Rhythm causing you to wake up before you’re actually rested.
- Alcohol blocks REM sleep, making you groggy and unfocused.
- Alcohol relaxes all of the muscles in your body, including the ones inside your throat. This may trigger snoring and/or sleep apnea.
- Alcohol is a diuretic, which will cause you to make trips to the bathroom during the night.
So in spite of alcohol’s effectiveness when it comes to inducing relaxation and sleep, having a drink or a shot before bed will undermine your quality and quantity of sleep.
Bibliography and Further Reading:
Geggel, Laura. “Booze Snooze: Why Does Alcohol Make You Sleepy, Then Alert?” Live Science. https://www.livescience.com/58990-why-drinking-alcohol-makes-you-sleepy.html, May 6, 2017
“How Alcohol Affects The Quality — And Quantity — Of Sleep” National Sleep Foundation. Retrieved May 14, 2018 from https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/how-alcohol-affects-sleep
Yates, Bill. “Neurophysiology Modules, Module 7: Inhibitory Neurotransmitters” Pitt Honors Human Physiology. Retrieved May 15, 2018 http://honorshumanphysiology.com/inhibitory.html, 2017