If you’re one to reach for the bottle before bedtime, you might want to think again. While drinking does initially cause drowsiness, it may not keep you asleep. In fact, according to a new study, it may result in worsened overall sleep quality, particularly in women. Not exactly the relaxing effect that was hoped for.
The study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan, examined the effect of alcohol on sleep habits of 93 men and women. Sleep technicians were looking for what’s known as the “rebound effect,” which affects the continuity of sleep throughout the night. The participants had an average age of 24 and maintained a healthy lifestyle. Although, approximately 29 of those involved in the study had a family history of alcohol problems.
Some subjects were given alcoholic drinks containing vodka or bourbon until they reached a point of intoxication. Others received a placebo of tonic water mixed with a non-caffeinated cola and a few drops of alcohol. The study sought to differentiate the effect that alcohol had on men versus women since women process alcohol differently than men. The study showed that while alcohol did induce drowsiness, it also caused women to wake up more throughout the night resulting in approximately 20 less minutes of sleep than those who drank the placebo.
However, the alcohol did not have the same affect on men. Researchers attribute the difference to the way that alcohol is processed in the bodies of both sexes. Because women genetically have more fat and less water than men, alcohol is absorbed into the body faster. This also results in the alcohol being metabolized more quickly in women, causing its effects to wear off faster as well.
Interestingly, there was no difference in the sleep structure among women and men. Even under the affects of alcohol, both genders exhibited the same sleep patterns throughout the night. Each cycled through periods of REM (rapid eye movement) – the deep, dream-inducing state of sleep – and non-REM sleep. This was in contrast to previous studies on the same subject, which did show differences in sleep patterns among the sexes.
Many Americans use alcohol as a means to dealing with the inability to sleep. The results of the study call for further research in connection with sleep deprivation and alcohol abuse. It may also have implications in regard to the risk of relapse for those who’ve suffered from alcoholism because of problems falling asleep.