Why Your Nightly Wine Is Ruining Your Sleep - Love Life Sober

Sleep is essential to our health and well-being both mentally and physically.

Matthew Walker, the world-renowned sleep scientist who wrote the book “Why We Sleep” (I highly recommend it!), writes: “Sleep is the Swiss army knife of health. When sleep is deficient, there is sickness and disease. And when sleep is abundant, there is vitality and health.”

When I was drinking every night I fell asleep with a glass of wine on my nightstand every single night. Sometimes it was empty, sometimes it was full, but the point is – I was drinking to pass out. I thought I needed the wine in order to sleep, because my body hadn’t tried to fall asleep naturally on it’s own for a long time. 

It turns out that while you may pass out after those 2 (or 4?) glasses of wine, your body isn’t actually getting the QUALITY of sleep that your brain and body NEEDS to recover from the day. 

William Porter in his book “Alcohol Explained” shares that when drinking your body only gets 1 or 2~ hours of REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, but your body NEEDS 6-7. Think about that for a second. You may be in bed for 8-10 hours, but your body is actually only clocking 1-2 hours of quality sleep. So you’re immediately starting your day with a deficit. 

Alcohol is a depressant, and this causes sleep for the first 5 hours or so, but your brain reacts by releasing a stimulant chemical. This is why you wake up in the middle of the night hungover, beating yourself up for drinking too much again, and unable to get back to sleep. Your body is working against you, trying to counteract the booze to bring you back to homeostasis. 

Matthew Walker writes in the sleep book, “Alcohol is a class of drugs that we call ‘the sedatives.’ And what you’re doing is just knocking your brain out. You’re not putting it into natural sleep.”

When you drink you might feel like you’ve had a rest because you passed out (were sedated) but rather than aiding you in the quality sleep  it is similar to a mild form of anesthesia.

Although you may seem to fall asleep quicker, your sleep becomes littered with “mini-awakenings” that will not be remembered and will leave you feeling exhausted and unrefreshed the next morning.

And then, after that horrible nights sleep, what do we do? We shot gun coffee throughout the day. Walker talks about this in his book as well and explains that coffee (a stimulant) has a really long window to clear your system, and if you drink too much coffee during the day you will not be able to get adequate sleep, because that stimulant stays in your system into the evening. So you have a depressant and a stimulant literally fighting each other in your body. It’s a vicious cycle, we drink wine to fall asleep, and coffee to wake up- but this is sending our body into overdrive trying to regulate itself and means we get a really bad night’s sleep.  

Too much science? Here’s the break down- when you drink you may pass out, but you’re not getting the sleep that you actually need to repair yourself. It’s why you may have passed out while watching Real Housewives at 10PM, but why you woke up at 3AM desperate for a glass of water only to lay in bed making that same old promise to yourself that you’re not going to do the same thing again. 

Ask me how I know. 

After I stopped drinking, it took a few weeks but eventually my body started getting the proper restorative sleep that it needed, and it was a GAME CHANGER. I hadn’t properly slept in YEARS!

I am now up early in the morning, I get to spend quality time with my kids before they head to school. I am present for breakfast with the family, and I get most of my best work done first thing in the morning. It’s the BEST!

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