In our fast-paced society, the risk of developing stress-related problems is high. And one of the most common is insomnia…meaning you just can't sleep well.
A lot of people think drinking is a way to decompress after a stressful day, which, in turn, should help you sleep, right? Wrong.
When it comes to sleep, alcohol is a funny thing. Alcohol certainly may have a calming effect at bedtime, but don't count on it to help you sleep through the night. Research has shown that alcohol disrupts the normal sleep pattern, particularly later in the night, and leads to diminished energy and fatigue the next day.
Also, those who regularly drink alcohol before bedtime find that its ability to make them sleepy decreases over time.
Many people think sleep is an inactive state. In fact, the opposite is true. Your brain is busy all night. It's nature's way of recovering and recharging for the next day's challenges. As you sleep, your brain goes through cycles, called stages, progressing from very light sleep to deep sleep.
Four of these stages occur before the onset of what is called rapid eye movement sleep. During this REM phase, we dream. Here's what happens:
You start sleeping very lightly and systematically progress through the various stages of non-REM sleep, moving from Stage 1 to Stage 4. At this point you enter the REM phase of sleep, which can last from several minutes to an hour, getting longer with each subsequent cycle. Afterward, the cycle repeats. Don't disturb the cycle. Alcohol tends to disrupt this very coordinated cycle of stages.
According to the National Institutes of Health, drinking alcohol within an hour of bedtime can disrupt the second half of the sleep period. During this fitful period, you can wake up and then have difficulty falling back asleep. As a result, your body doesn't get recharged as it should for the next day.
Insomnia significantly upsets many people's lives. Don't make the mistake of adopting unhealthful behaviors to try to fight the problem. Instead, focus on tactics that improve your sleep without compromising your health. From the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center, I'm Dr. Tedd Mitchell, and this is the President's Prescription.
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