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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

The Truth About Nightcaps: Ditch the Drink, Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Posted By: Advancing Care

Medically reviewed by Lore Garten, MD

For some of us, it’s natural to reach for a glass of wine or beer at the end of a long day to relax and unwind. While the first sip might feel calming, the reality is that a nightcap impacts sleep quality more than you might think:

woman sipping evening wine

  • Alcohol interferes with the crucial rapid eye movement (REM) sleep stage, impacting memory, learning and mood.
  • It increases urination, leading to fragmented sleep with frequent trips to the restroom.
  • Alcohol-induced dehydration can cause headaches and further disrupt sleep.
  • If you already suffer from sleep apnea, alcohol can worsen the condition by relaxing the muscles in the throat, further obstructing your airway during sleep.

Instead of reaching for an alcoholic beverage, consider calming alternatives to establish a relaxing bedtime routine such as taking a warm bath, reading a book or practicing meditation or deep breathing.

Establish healthy sleep habits

Creating a consistent sleep schedule is key to regulating your body's natural sleep-wake cycle. Here are a few tips for creating healthy sleep habits:

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even on weekends. This helps your body anticipate sleep and wakefulness, leading to better quality sleep.
  • Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening, as it can interfere with sleep even hours later.
  • Instead of your usual Pinot Grigio, try relaxing with an alcohol-free mocktail.
  • Power down electronics at least one hour before bedtime. The blue light emitted from screens can suppress melatonin production, a hormone that regulates sleep.
  • Ensure your bedroom is cool, dark and quiet.

By prioritizing these healthy sleep habits and avoiding alcohol, you'll be well on your way to waking up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day.

Taking control of your drinking doesn't have to be a solo act. A supportive community of compassionate medical professionals is here to help. To schedule a consultation with a WMCHealth primary care physician at a location convenient for you or to learn more about the mental health services that WMCHealth provides visit HealthAlliance Hospital’s Bridge Back Program, WMCHealth Physicians and Bon Secours Medical Group.