Sleep Disorders and Alcohol
If you just can't sleep every once in a while or are a chronic insomnia, you probably already have tried a night cap to help you sleep or at least have thought about the idea. Statistics show that up to twenty eight percent of those who can't sleep chronically use alcohol to help them get to sleep. The problem is that alcohol doesn't really work well for sleep disorders so you shouldn't be using it.
Why do so many people turn to alcohol when it is such a bad choice for sleeping? If you're one of the 28 percent who use alcohol to sleep, you need to know that it wears off after about two hours and then leaves you awake again. You start to have withdrawal symptoms from a lack of alcohol, such as shallow sleeping patterns, awakening frequently, having nightmares or really vivid dreaming episodes.
All of these symptoms add to the problems of trying to stay asleep after using alcohol to get to sleep. You start to feel tired, a lack of alertness and some sleep deprivation symptoms. It also can cause a more serious complication: that of sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is one of those sleep disorders that results in one stopping breathing for awhile during their sleep so that they don't get enough oxygen to the brain. The effect can cause poor sleep because you're always waking up a little bit to catch your breath before sinking back to sleep. You can gasp in your sleep, trying to get some air because your air passages have collapsed upon themselves due to the muscle relaxant effects of alcohol.
Alcohol's affect on you can be completely different than the affect of alcohol on another's sleep. In younger women, alcohol tends to deepen the sleep initially, increasing stage 4 sleep and decreasing the amount of REM sleep
. The problem associated with this is that you cannot awaken quickly in the event of a fire or other emergency and will just lie there sleeping.
The elderly is another class of people who are deeply affected by alcohol and their sleep. When those who are elderly drink alcohol, the level goes higher than with young people who may be drinking the same amount of liquor. This puts the elderly person at risk for alcohol poisoning, poor balance and falls from having an unsteady gait. Hip fractures are very common in the elderly who fall from alcohol.
Those people who are alcoholics can suffer a little different effect from alcohol and insomnia. They often drink all afternoon and into the night, leading to numerous wakening periods at night and a high degree of REM sleep, often with dreams and nightmares.
Even if you're young and healthy, you shouldn't drink as a means to get some sleep. It is addictive and can result in dependence of alcohol. You may also experience daytime fatigue and possibly become an alcoholic. There are a lot better, more natural, ways of getting to sleep that don't involve alcohol and are much safer for you.