Short of sleeping pills the most misunderstood of all sleep aids is alcohol.
Many seem to think alcohol helps them fall asleep more easily, or even improved their sleep.
BOTH ARE NEGATIVE!
Alcohol is in a class of drugs called sedatives. It binds to receptors in the brain that prevent neurons from firing their electrical impulses.
But Helder, alcohol can't be a sedative, it makes me wake up and I even become more social!
The answer according to Matthew Walker, the author of Why We Sleep, this happens because a part of the brain is sedated, this part of the brain is called the prefrontal cortex, this is the part of the brain that controls our impulses and restrains our behaviour.
Alcohol immobilizes this part of the brain first. As a result we tend to loosen up, become less controlled and more extroverted.
The above is still brain sedation!
Give alcohol a little more time and it starts to sedate other parts of the brain.
The desire and ability to remain conscious start decreasing, and we let go of consciousness more easily. This is not called SLEEP, this is called SEDATION.
Alcohol sedates you out of wakefulness, but it does not induce natural sleep.
Alcohol also dismantles our sleep in an additional two ways.
First, alcohol fragments sleep, littering the night with brief awakenings. Alcohol induced sleep is not continuous and as a result not very restorative.
The above usually goes unnoticed by the sleeper since they don't remember it.
Second, alcohol is one of the most powerful suppressors of REM sleep that we know of.
People consuming even moderate amounts of alcohol in the afternoon and evening are thus depriving themselves of dream sleep.
We live in a society where alcohol is so prevalent,many people enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, maybe a brandy after dinner, a pint after work with friends., whatever, it happens and it is a huge part of our lives.
Unfortunately the evidence is pretty big regarding alcohol's harmful effects on sleep.
Nightly alcohol will disrupt sleep, as much as it is hard to give it up, if you want to have a great night sleep, having alcohol in the afternoon or evening is not a great idea.