Evening Alcohol Disrupts REM Sleep: Results Of A New Study
A new study reports that alcohol before bedtime has dramatic negative effects on the quality of one's sleep. Although a a little alcohol may help you fall asleep faster, multiple studies from sleep laboratories indicate that any amount of alcohol significantly interferes with the important restorative REM sleep cycles. Before I go into the details of this study, I want to make some general comments about sleep.
Sleep is not just a period of rest. While you rest, a great deal of biological maintenance activity takes place. These are processes that promote repair and restoration of our physical health AND our psychic/emotional health. It is not just how much sleep you get that matters, the quality of your sleep is also very important. There are two main types of sleep: Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep and Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) sleep. REM sleep cycles are primarily involved in the processing, reorganization and consolidation of information whereas NREM sleep is a time for maintenance and restoration of the body.
The study I'm reporting on was published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research on Jan. 24, 2013. The title of this study is Alcohol and Sleep 1: Effects on Normal Sleep. The authors of this study report that just a single dose of alcohol before sleep can zap the quality of your z's. The researchers review over 20 studies conducted in controlled settings in sleep labs. They found clear evidence that even a small amount of alcohol has a negative impact on sleep. In fact, just two drinks substantially decrease one's REM sleep time, which is important for memory and health. If you want high quality sleep, you might have to kiss your nightcap goodbye.
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